New Rules To Protect Spinner Dolphins

Posted on Sep 29, 2021 in Announcements, Boat Harbors, Commercial Activities, Fishing Activities, Information Meeting, Main, Ocean Recreation Activities

Message for Hawaii boaters from NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office:

NOAA Fisheries is announcing two rules to enhance the protection of Hawaiian spinner dolphins:

  • A final rule that prohibits swimming with and approaching spinner dolphins within 50 yards or remaining within 50 yards of a Hawaiian spinner dolphin, including approach by interception. The prohibition applies in waters within 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) of the Hawaiian Islands and in designated waters bounded by the islands of Lāna‘i, Maui, and Kahoʻolawe; and 
  • A proposed rule to establish time-area closures at five sites in the main Hawaiian Islands. The proposed rule would establish mandatory time-area closures of Hawaiian spinner dolphins’ essential daytime habitats from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily in areas of Kealakekua Bay, Hōnaunau Bay, Kauhakō Bay (Ho‘okena), and Makako Bay on Hawai‘i Island, and La Perouse Bay on Maui.

Although unauthorized take of marine mammals, including harassment of spinner dolphins, continues to be prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act throughout their range, the purpose of these regulations is to identify and prohibit specific human activities that result in take (including harassment) of Hawaiian spinner dolphins. These regulations will reduce take of Hawaiian spinner dolphins and the impact of human viewing and interaction on these animals in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The swim-with and approach final regulation became effective October 28, 2021 and can be found here:

The proposed time-area closures regulation can be found here:

The Environmental Impact Statement prepared in support of these actions is available online at:

The attached document outlines the details of the swim-with and approach regulations and specifically identifies the prohibitions and exceptions for the final rule.  Additional general information and other documents are available on our website:

If you have any questions concerning these two rulemaking actions please contact Kevin Brindock, with the NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office, at [email protected], 808-725-5146.


For additional details, download the spinner rule wheelhouse flier issued by NOAA


Posted 9/28/21 – verified and updated 11/27/23