HONOLULU A Hawaii tour operator is being fined for repeatedly dropping swimmers in front of dolphins and encircling the animals with his tour boat.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week it's the first such fine against an operator of spinner dolphin tours.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrative law judge found Casey Phillips Cho's actions on Oct. 23, 2014, amounted to harassment of dolphins. She fined Cho and his Big Island company $2,500.
Cho's attorney, Brian DeLima, says his client disagreed with the findings. But he says Cho paid the fine rather than appeal as a business decision.
NOAA officials are developing rules to regulate interactions with Hawaii dolphins out of concern popular swim-with-dolphin tours are disrupting the resting, socializing and reproductive behavior of the animals.