Odontocetes of Maui Four-Island Region

Project Name:
Odontocetes of Maui Four-Island Region

Project Dates:
Ongoing

Project Site(s):
Maui Four-Island Region, 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 the Maui Four-Island Region. Species covered under this project will be specifically: bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris), rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis), short-finned 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 the Maui Four-Island Region, specifically the more offshore waters near Lanai, Molokai 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 leeward of Maui 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 # 18101

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. Understanding their ecology in Hawaiian waters is particularly critical.

Publications/Presentations:
See Pacific Whale Foundation publication summary