A university professor has joined the chorus of warnings about the dangers of continuing close contact between humans and a sociable Hawkes Bay dolphin.

The dolphin, known as Moko, amuses itself by playing with swimmers at Mahia beach, east of Wairoa, and was this week blamed for an incident where a swimmer had to be rescued.

The woman was out at sea playing with Moko, but when she went to return to the beach she found it difficult as the dolphin kept circling and diving next to her.

The woman was wearing a wetsuit, but ended up exhausted and cold, clinging to a buoy before being rescued by people on a dinghy.

AUT University Professor Mark Orams, who has conducted research on marine mammal tourism for over a decade, said interacting with dolphins was risky.

Prof Orams said there were cases around the world where bottlenose dolphins became sociable with humans, and there were risks for both species.

He said dolphins such as Moko normally lived in complex social groups where dominance hierarchies were created, tested and reinforced through a variety of behaviour, including aggressive acts.

When dolphins started incorporating humans into their social group they tended to increasingly assert themselves as they became more confident.

"Aggression is part of their behavioural make-up and humans can be on the receiving end," he said.

"Dolphins are powerful marine predators, we must always remember that they hunt and kill to survive."

Prof Orams said dolphins needed to be respected rather than thought of as "cuddly, playful and friendly animals that need our friendship".

"My view is that it is in this dolphin's best interest to interact with its own kind, to develop the social skills it needs to hunt, breed, raise young and be a successful wild dolphin."

While the close contact might be enjoyable, the more it associated with people the less likely it would be to seek out its own kind.

"If we truly care about dolphins and about Moko we will put its interests above our own desires."

- NZPA