Dolphins as Cultural Workers, and the Human Conflicts that Ensue
Human desire to interact with dolphins has existed for centuries; however, it is only in the past 40 years that the popularity of dolphins through media and pop culture has perpetuated a growing dolphin-swim tourism industry. Portrayal of dolphins as helpers, jesters, and happy boundary crossers has not only encouraged human engagement but associated medicinal powers and telepathy with these species. The moral viability of wild-dolphin swims has been the impetus for substantial debate, which contests empirical evidence for the negative impacts on dolphin species against the socioeconomic benefits of this activity. This chapter will present a unique examination of the human–dolphin interface, using narratives from popular culture placed in a dolphin-tourism context. Dolphins, human swimmers, related communities, and the swim industry as a whole will be presented through a case study using swim tourism based on Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Dolphin tourism in Hawaii is an economically profitable business, with several communities and operators that are dependent on this industry. Conflict between the local community, operators, and government over dolphin tourism has occurred as a result of resource disputes, ethical debates, and economic interests. There are several different types of dolphin-swim groups who diverge in their attitudes, reasoning, and frequency of dolphin swims. These groups hold distinct values and opinions regarding the dolphins, related management, and conservation plans. The levels of conflict model will frame this case study, closely observing the act of swimming with dolphins and how it has changed community composition, interests, and history.
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