According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), swimming with wild dolphins can be harmful in several ways:
- The dolphins can lose their natural wariness, causing them to trust people and boats that could harm them. They might end up swimming up too close to fishing operations, where they can get tangled in nets.
- They can grow dependent on people for food and stop foraging on their own for meals.
- It generally changes their natural behaviors, which could impact their normal migration patterns.
Specifically, the spinner dolphins around Hawaii are showing signs of exhaustion as groups of tourists frequently approach their pods, disrupting their daytime rest.
"All of these things can contribute to a reduction of fitness over time - this kind of chronic level of stress. That's what we're concerned about," Ann Garrett, assistant regional administrator of the NMFS's protected resources division for the Pacific Islands, told the Associated Press.