Spinner dolphins—acrobats of the ocean

These coordinated cetaceans, known for their acrobatic spinning behavior, can rotate up to seven times in a single jump. In Hawaiʻi, spinner dolphins are typically found in shallow nearshore waters during the day socializing, resting and nurturing their young, moving offshore at night to feed as prey (shrimp, squid and small fish) move higher in the water column.

Similar to other studied cetacean species, spinner dolphins are at risk from the 5 Major Threats—bycatch, marine plastic pollution, climate change, unsustainable tourism and vessel collisions with marine animals—identified by PWF research as negatively impacting ocean wildlife.

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Photo Credit: David Fleetham

Key statistics

Interesting facts about spinner dolphins
Travel in groups ranging from 20 to 1,000 individuals
Found in tropical, temperate waters
Average 4–7 feet in length and weigh between 130–170 pounds
Approximate life span is 20 years

How We’re Helping

We research and collect data to mitigate ongoing threats

  • Research Efforts: Our Hawaiʻi research focuses on spinner dolphins, making a significant impact on the conservation efforts in this region.

  • Ongoing Monitoring: We continuously monitor spinner dolphins, conducting individual and population level health assessments to gauge the impact of various threats and ensure their continued well-being and conservation.

  • Comprehensive Data Collection: Our holistic research approach includes biopsy sampling, drone measurements, skin and breath sampling, fecal sampling, and photo-identification leading to a comprehensive understanding of spinner dolphin populations.

  • Scientific Impact: Our research has directly led to increased protections for spinner dolphins in Hawaii, including a 50-yard approach limit, safeguarding their natural behaviors and habitats.

NMFS/MMPA Permit #21321

Project Partners

Two dolphins jumping out of the water.


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