Conservation of Dolphins in the Main Hawaiian Islands

The goal of this study is to maintain long-term continuous monitoring of dolphins in Hawaii, and identify threats or stressors to provide science-based recommendations on mitigation and conservation strategies.

Of the 18 dolphin species found within the waters around the main Hawaiian Islands, 5 are sighted regularly within Maui Nui. These species include common bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, and false killer whales. Although less common, we also encounter melon-headed whales, rough-toothed dolphins, and  pygmy killer whales. Divided into island-associated stocks, or populations, Hawaii’s dolphins face threats from interactions with commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism, vessel  traffic, noise pollution, and marine debris. The small population sizes and restricted distribution places them at higher risk for impacts from human activities.

In order to better inform management of the dolphins that are resident to the Hawaiian  Islands, we monitor trends in their abundance, distribution, and movement patterns. Data are  collected using a combination of nearshore and offshore surveys in the leeward waters of Maui Nui. We collect a variety of data to gain a broad understanding of individual and population level metrics, including photo-identification, behavioral observations, and UAS (unoccupied aerial system; drone) morphometrics.


  • Project Partners

    Robin Baird, Cascadia Research Collective

    Kristi West, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Recent Publications

    2021: Van Cise, A.M., Baird, R.W., Harnish, A.E., Currie, J.J., Stack, S.H., Cullins, T., & Gorgone, A.M. Mark−recapture estimates suggest declines in abundance of common bottlenose dolphin stocks in the main Hawaiian Islands. Endangered Species Research 45: 37-53.  Download PDF

    2021: Currie, J.J., van Aswegen, M., Stack, S.H., West, K.L., Vivier, F., & Bejder, L. Rapid weight loss in free ranging pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) and the implications for anthropogenic disturbance of odontocetes. Scientific Reports, 11: 8181. Download PDF

    2020: Stack, S.H., Olson, G.L., Neamtu, V., Machernis, A.F., Baird, R.W., Currie, J.J. Identifying  spinner dolphin movement and behavioral patterns to inform conservation strategies in Maui  Nui, Hawaii. Marine Ecology Progress Series 644: 187-197.

    2019: Stack, S.H., Currie, J.J., McCordic, J.A. & Olson, G.L. Incidence of odontocetes with dorsal  fin collapse in Maui Nui, Hawaii. Aquatic Mammals 45(3) 257-265.

    *For a full list of our research publications, click here:


Hawaii Visitor Update

Aloha, We Are Open!  Our PacWhale Eco-Adventures are open for booking as we welcome visitors back to Maui.  Quarantine restrictions were lifted on Oct. 15th for those following the state’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.