Conservation Programs

Pacific Whale Foundation uses our research programs to guide the conservation messages of the organization. This year, the themes center on marine debris and false killer whales

Marine Debris

Many marine organisms suffer from careless disposal of trash into our oceans. Marine debris threatens wildlife since manmade products such as plastics are persistent and do not degrade as quickly as natural materials. This persistent debris threatens wildlife through entanglement, ingestion, and leaching of chemicals into the environment. At Pacific Whale Foundation, our research team studies the distribution of marine debris to determine whether there may be areas of heightened risk for our resident dolphin populations. Information from this research can help inform policies regarding disposal of garbage to help prevent more debris from entering the oceans. 

In 2016 we received a NOAA Marine Debris Grant to spread awareness about marine debris threats, focusing on cigarette butts and Maui’s tobacco-free beaches and parks bill. Our research found that there was little effect in passing this bill – we did not find a significant difference in the number of cigarette butts from beach clean-ups before and after the legislation passed. We aim to elicit a change in the public perception about the impacts cigarette butts have on the environment. 

Actions to take:

  • Educate the public on impacts of cigarette butts and marine debris
  • Participate in a beach clean up
  • Encourage consumers to produce less waste
  • Dispose of trash in appropriate receptacles
  • Opt for biodegradable or reusable containers and packaging whenever possible.

False Killer Whales

The false killer whales that we see around Maui are part of an endangered insular population that inhabits the Main Hawaiian Islands. This population of false killer whales has fewer than 150 individuals and is genetically distinct from other populations of false killer whales. The primary threats to this population include marine debris, entanglement in longline fishing gear, and chemical pollutants in the marine environment. The research department studies the distribution of false killer whales in order to better understand any overlap with areas of high concentration of marine debris as well as overlap with commercial longline fishing areas. Policy makers can use this information to make well-informed decisions regarding the recovery of this population. 

Actions to take: