Even as a human, sometimes being around other people for too long can be exhausting. But for dolphins, it can also be deadly.
A Murdoch University study looked at spinner dolphins in Hawaii and found that human interaction is fundamentally disrupting their natural behaviors, Australia's News.com reported.
According to the Daily Mail, the research found that 82 percent of the dolphins' time was spent around humans, with just an average of 10 minutes between interactions. This is a huge problem, because the time when humans are most active on the water — daytime from 6 am to 6 pm — is also when the dolphins need to be resting.
We're keeping them awake so often that they can't find the energy for important things like mating.
News.com reported that spinner dolphins feed at night, which means that, during the day, they're trying to sleep. Getting down time is imperative for active dolphins to ensure that they're rested enough to hunt, mate and protect themselves.
A sleepy, worn-out dolphin can't as effectively perform any of these tasks. That could result in starvation, population decline and getting killed by sea predators that they would otherwise be able to outrun or avoid.
NOAA noted that these dolphins can get so fed-up with repeated human interaction that they will sometimes leave their sheltered habitats for new homes that may not be as well-protected. These new habitats could also be so far away that they expend even more energy just trying to reach it.
Spinner dolphins see 25 percent more human exposure than other dolphin species, according to the Daily Mail.
But they're not the only ones affected by it.
News.com reported that dolphins in New Zealand and Western Australia have also shown these behavioral changes because of over-interaction with humans.
NOAA reports that even if dolphins seem friendly or curious about your boat, kayak, paddleboard, etc., that doesn't give you a free pass to interact with them.
Dolphins deserve their personal space.
NOAA also wants people to know that spinner dolphins have to swim and surface to breathe while sleeping. So just because you see them moving doesn't mean they're not resting.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it illegal to harass dolphins, and that includes disrupting their natural behavior. NOAA advises people who come across wild dolphins to let them swim by undisturbed, and you're legally required to stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins at all times.
The bottom line is that your dolphin selfie or cool interaction story isn't worth a dolphin's life. So get a good look at them from afar — but leave them be.