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Resource Ecology & Fisheries Management (REFM) Division

Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

Stakeholder Concerns and Spinner Dolphin Management

Jennifer Sepez completed a NOAA rotational assignment at the Pacific Islands Regional Office. The region is concerned about the effects of “swim-with-wild-dolphins” tourism activity that has increased in recent years. NMFS is considering whether to propose regulations to protect wild spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands from “take,” as defined in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and its implementing regulations, or from actions that otherwise adversely affect the dolphins (see NMFS encourages members of the public to view and enjoy spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands in ways that are consistent with the provisions of the MMPA, and supports responsible wildlife viewing as articulated in agency guidelines (

Viewing wild marine mammals in Hawaii is a popular recreational activity for both tourists and residents alike. In the past, most recreational viewing focused on humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) during the winter months when the whales migrate from their feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska to Hawaii’s warm and protected waters to breed and calve. However, in recent years, recreational activities have increasingly focused on viewing small cetaceans, with a particular emphasis on spinner dolphins, which are routinely found close to shore in shallow coves and bays and other areas throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. These dolphins feed offshore at night, and return to the nearshore during the day to rest and socialize.

NMFS is concerned that some nearshore human activities cause unauthorized taking of dolphins, diminish the value to the dolphins of habitat routinely used by them for resting, and cause detrimental individual- and population-level impacts.

Dr. Sepez interviewed stakeholders in the main locations where spinner dolphin tourism takes place. She met with a broad array of individuals with an interest in the issue, from residents who engage in swimming with dolphins on a regular basis, to opponents of the activity, to other ocean users who may encounter dolphins. She is currently drafting a report on her findings which will include a description of the types of interactions between humans and spinner dolphins at various locations, and a preliminary analysis of the impacts of different policy choices articulated by NOAA in the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register on 12 December 2005 (on the web at

By Jennifer Sepez

Two New Economists Join the Group

Two new economists were hired by the Economics and Social Sciences Research Program: Dr. Brian Garber-Yonts and Dr. Michael Dalton.

Dr. Garber-Yonts was formerly a research economist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis, Oregon. He completed his M.S. in Resource and Environmental Economics in 1996 and his Ph.D. in Forest Policy in 2001, both at Oregon State University.

Dr. Dalton received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and was a postdoctoral research associate at Stanford University from 1995-1998 before joining the faculty at California State University at Monterey Bay in the fall of 1998. He is an economist (chair, economics subcommittee) on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and a recent Visiting Scholar in the Population and Climate Change program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

By Ron Felthoven


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