Whale and Dolphin Tracker

Project Name:
Whale and Dolphin Tracker 

Project Dates:

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

Project Aims:
To understand the year-round distribution of odontocetes, or toothed whales, in the four-island region of Maui.

To understand the distribution of humpback whales within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

To use platforms of opportunity to cost-effectively gather data during daily eco-tour operations.

Project Justification:
A better understanding of the cetacean species that call the Maui four-island region home, whether year-round or seasonally, is essential for their conservation. Distribution data enhance our understanding of these species and how they interact with their environment. There is a gap in research on many species of odontocetes in the four-island region of Maui, and the conservation status of many of our local species is unknown for lack of data. This is especially important as the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is currently undergoing a Management Plan Review and is considering the addition of Sanctuary protections for additional species.

Project Methodology:
Data are opportunistically collected on board Pacific Whale Foundation's eco-tour vessels by trained naturalists who record vessel GPS tracks for each trip as well as date, time, species, pod size and composition, environmental conditions and a GPS location for sightings.

Project Permits and/or Collaborators:
No permits required as data are collected aboard vessels which obey all laws and regulations, both federal and state, for observing cetaceans in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. This project is conducted in collaboration with Pacific Whale Foundation's vessel staff.

Management Outcomes:
Whale and Dolphin Tracker demonstrates that whalewatching organizations, as well as other platforms of opportunity, can contribute invaluable data about cetaceans in the areas in which they operate.

Global implementation of such low-cost systems has benefits to researchers, the eco-tourism industry, educators, and wildlife managers. 

2014: Davidson, E.H., Currie, J.J., Stack, S.H., Kaufman, G.D. and Martinez, E. Whale and Dolphin Tracker, a web-application for recording cetacean sighting data in real-time: Example using opportunistic observations reported in 2013 from tour vessels off Maui, Hawai`i. Document SC/65b/WW05 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, Bled, Slovenia: 12-24 May. Download PDF

2011: Kaufman, G.D., Maldini, D., Ward, B., Merrill, P., Moore, B. and Kaufman, M. Enhancing platforms of opportunity data collection using newly developed Whale & Dolphin Tracker software. Document SC/63/WW3 presented to the IWC Scientific Committee, Tromso, Norway: 11-14 July.

Data Visualization and Maps:
See our Whale and Dolphin Sightings Map