Hawai'i OASIS project: Odontocete ASsessment around ISlands (artwork by Annie Douglas)


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Map of the main Hawaiian islands showing search effort from 2000-2008

Eighteen species of odontocetes and at least six species of baleen whales have been documented in Hawaiian waters, yet until recently virtually all research has been focused on just two species, the humpback whale and spinner dolphin. Since February 2000 we have been undertaking research on cetaceans in Hawaiian waters (under the authorization of NMFS permits*), focusing on the less well-studied species of odontocetes. This research is being coordinated by Dr. Robin Baird, but involves involves a team of researchers through Cascadia (Annie Gorgone, Sabre Mahaffy, Brenda Rone, Greg Schorr, Daniel Webster), and collaborations with a number of other individuals, including Renee Albertson, Russ Andrews, Aran Mooney, Dan McSweeney, Erin Oleson, Bill Walker, and others. Funding for this work has come from variety of sources, including the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the U.S. Navy (through the Naval Postgraduate School, the Office of Naval Research, Pacific Fleet, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Alaska SeaLife Center/University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), and the Wild Whale Research Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Dolphin Quest, the M.B. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, the John F. Long Foundation, and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. These studies have covered areas around all the main Hawaiian islands, from the island of Hawai‘i in the east to Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau in the west, and focus on a number of species, including false killer whales, bottlenose dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, rough-toothed dolphins, melon-headed whales, pygmy killer whales, pantropical spotted dolphins, Blainville's beaked whales, and Cuvier's beaked whales. Much of this research is attempting to address a variety of conservation and management issues. This work has involved studies of:

The Crittercam system is attached with a suction cup and will rotate on the body to face into the direction the animal is swimming. When the tagged whale stops forward motion the camera will swivel and sometimes face backwards. The false killer whale clip lasts three minutes. To see either clip again hit the Refresh button on your internet browser.

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Click on the photo below to download a brochure on our Hawai‘i research. If you would like copies sent for distribution please contact Robin Baird (rwbaird (at)cascadiaresearch.org)

A black and white version of the brochure can be downloaded here.

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Photographs taken by whale watching or sports fishing charter operators, passengers on sightseeing or sportsfishing trips, and private individuals out boating have all contributed to helping understand the residency and movements of Hawaiian whales and dolphins. Contributions by Chris Bane, formerly of HoloHolo Charters off Kaua'i, Tori Cullins of the Wild Dolphin Foundation and Chuck Babbitt off O'ahu, and the Hawai'i Marine Mammal Consortium, among others, have played an important role in understanding inter-island movements of several species.

If you have photographs of the dorsal fins of Hawaiian odontocetes (other than spinner dolphins) from any of the Hawaiian islands, and are willing to share these photographs for comparisons of inter-island movements, please contact me by e-mail at rwbaird (at) cascadiaresearch.org


There are a number of species of Hawaiian odontocetes that are difficult to distinguish in the field, and we have made up one-page sheets that include photographs and text that point out the key features to distinguish them. The purpose of these ID sheets is for folks to print out and carry in the field to help in IDing species. Photographs on these sheets are copyrighted and should not be used for any other purpose. The four sheets available are for Hawaiian "blackfish", dwarf & pygmy sperm whales, pygmy killer whales & melon-headed whales, and Cuvier's & Blainville's beaked whales.

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With the cooperation of the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office and Dr. Kristi West of Hawai‘i Pacific University we are also trying to use data and samples from stranded animals to help understand wild populations - information on the types of samples and data we are using can be found in the following pdf file:

Squid and octopus carcasses from Hawaiian waters are wanted for research purposes. During 2006 we started collecting floating cephalopod carcassess off the island of Hawai‘i, and since then we've collected over 100 specimens. These specimens were identified by Bill Walker of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, and include a pelagic octopod, Alloposus mollis, and a number of deep-water squid, Architeuthis sp., Cycloteuthis akimushkini), Discoteuthis sp., Enoploteuthis reticulata, Histioteuthis hoylei, Mastigoteuthis sp., and Moroteuthis sp. All species may be eaten by deep-diving odonotocetes - collection of these specimens will both help us understand what species of cephalopods are in the area, and be used in a study of trophic ecology involving analyses of stable isotopes and fatty acids.

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Donate to support our research on Hawaiian odontocetes

Cascadia is a non-profit, tax-exempt (recognized by the IRS under 501(c)3) organization, thus donations are tax-deductible under U.S. law.

For more information on Hawaiian cetaceans

Hawai‘i Marine Mammal Consortium

NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office

NMFS Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology

*Research outlined on this page is being undertaken under U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permits No. 15330 (issued to R.W. Baird) and No. 14097 (issued to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center).

Wondering what the is? It is an ‘okina, which marks a glottal stop used in many Polynesian languages. An ‘okina is used in many Hawaiian place names, such as Hawai‘i and Kaho‘olawe, but is not used in the word Hawaiian.

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Last Updated March 2014 by Robin W. Baird