A man from Maui, Hawaii, who refers to himself as Dolphin Dave, is accused of harassing humpback whales and dolphins in Hawaii.
This weekend, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) received a call about “a humpback whale following” a large island, the department said in a Facebook post on Monday.
David Jimenez, 65, of Maui, was quoted as reporting the hotline lighting up with calls about following a humpback whale…
Posted by Hawaii DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) on Monday, March 6, 2023
The suspect has been identified as 65-year-old David Jimenez, who was spotted snorkeling near a humpback whale at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park on Sunday, DLNR reported.
The department shared a video on social media that appears to have been shot underwater by Jimenez himself. He is seen swimming close to the whale, almost touching its fins.
When the department’s enforcement arrived on scene, Jimenez was near a pod of dolphins. A responding officer recorded Jimenez allegedly chasing the pod and leading a team in pursuit of the animals.
Jimenez is known as “Dolphin Dave” on Facebook, where he shares dolphin-inspired art.
When asked about the incident, Jimenez told officers to “not stop swimming with him and the dolphins, ’cause it’s magic and others do worse,'” the department said.
He was cited for violating two Hawaii administrative rules — one that protects endangered whale species and another that prevents harassment of wildlife in a state park. He is scheduled to appear in court in May.
CBS News has reached out to Hawaii DLNR and Jimenez for further comment and is awaiting a response.
Many of Hawaii’s animals are protected under several federal and state laws, according to the DLNR. Under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, humpback whales are protected, and other Hawaii state laws protect endangered, threatened, and indigenous species such as other whales, seals, and various types of dolphins.
Although humpback whales were once considered endangered — and many populations around the world are still classified as endangered or threatened — they are not considered at risk in Hawaii, according to NOAA. Still, they are vulnerable to harassment from boats, especially because they often swim close to shore and attract whale-watching tours.
NOAA advises whale watches to keep a safe distance and not touch whales.