Odontocetes of Maui County Waters

Project Name:
Odontocetes of Maui County Waters

Project Dates:
Ongoing

Project Site(s):
Maui County Waters (Four-Island Area), Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Project Aims:
Pacific Whale Foundation is conducting a series of projects focused on long-term monitoring of odontocetes (i.e., toothed whales) in Maui County waters. Species covered under this project will be specifically: bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis), pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhyncus), melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra), Pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata).

Overall Goals:
To monitor trends in distribution of these species in waters of Maui county, specifically the more offshore waters near Lanai and Molokai and the wild side of Molokini and Kahoolawe.
To determine movement patterns in the study area and habitat use with relation to foraging (availability of resources) and social interactions.
To develop a database of known photo-identified individuals and monitor site fidelity and behavior and association patterns.

Project Methodology:
Waters of Maui County are searched for the presence of odontocetes along predetermined transects. Once odontocetes are found, a different data collection protocol is initiated depending on the species under observation. All data collection protocols involve photo-identification of distinctly marked individual animals to understand the social structure and long-term social stability of groups. 

Project Permit:
NOAA/NMFS LOC # 13427-05

Management Outcomes:
Relatively little is known about odontocetes other than spinner dolphins in Hawaiian waters. All of the species under study are present year-round in Hawaii and some are found in deeper waters away from land making them harder to see and study. For most of these species we urgently need more up to date knowledge on their conservation status, potential for threat from human activities and a sound understanding of their ecology in Hawaiian waters. Data collected on these species are critical to contribute to sound management plans in the future. False killer whales in Hawaiian waters are currently considered depleted and the inshore stock is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Understanding their ecology in Hawaiian waters is particularly critical.

Publications/Presentations:
See Pacific Whale Foundation publication summary