The research team did not have to go far on July 3rd to spot a dolphin. There was one swimming around Maalaea Harbor! It looked like a sub-adult, meaning it was not fully grown. We photographed it following our protocol, and this week searched for a match within our bottlenose dolphin catalog, but this individual had not been photographed previously by our researchers. When we were examining the photos, we noticed a lot of tooth rake scars on the posterior (back) half of its body – perhaps it was seeking shelter from another dolphin or predator, it was curious, or maybe it had simply gotten lost. The team watched for a while and eventually the dolphin followed another boat out of the harbor. Teenagers are always getting into trouble!
During the summer months, the research team continues our year-round dolphin surveys and marine debris study. Last year after six months of surveys, we had 35 encounters with dolphins and collected 430 pieces of debris (e.g. plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard). That’s 12 pieces of marine debris for every dolphin sighting! Even more disturbing is that while surface debris is easy to find and collect, there is much more garbage lurking below the ocean’s surface.
One common item we find while doing ocean surveys are balloons. This is particularly true after holidays such as the 4th of July. Balloons can easily slip out of our fingers and float away, but remember: what goes up must come down. Smaller debris items such as balloons are often mistaken for food and ingested by wildlife, leading to health problems, choking and death.
What can you do to help? If you don’t already, start recycling at your house, office and school. If you can’t find a local recycling program, start your own. Participate in local clean ups. If you see litter on the ground, pick it up! If we thought more about where our garbage ends up, it would make a huge difference to the animals that call the ocean home.
Over the past month, the research team has spent most of its time in the office. Very windy weather conditions have prohibited us from doing odontocete (toothed whale) surveys, as it is very challenging to spot dolphins if there are whitecaps on the water. However, we finally had a break this past weekend and spent two days on the water, conducting surveys and collecting marine debris. We were delighted when we had a rare sighting -a pod of spotted and spinner dolphins interacting together! The team collected a number of photographs for our photo-ID catalogs. A good thing that we made the most of those good weather days, because the wind has picked up again and we are now back in the office awaiting our next opportunity to get back on the water.
We just finished a wonderful milestone – the first time that the research department completed systematic transect surveys on our research vessel Ocean Protector throughout the entire whale season (December – April). We were hampered by some windy weather in April but overall it was a successful season. January and February had the most whale sightings, as usual, although we did see whales regularly throughout all of the season.
Some of the highlights of this whale season were:
- 55 survey days and 455 hours in the field, covering 3218 nautical miles.
- 293 sightings of humpback whales.
- 12 sightings of bottlenose dolphins.
- 11 sightings of spotted dolphins.
- 5 sightings of spinner dolphins.
- 3 encounters with false killer whales.
- 1 encounter with short-finned pilot whales.
Thank you to our wonderful interns and volunteers, as well as our members and supporters whose donations continue to fund our research efforts.
On Friday, 01/24/2014 at 1:56 pm we had a resighting of Pa’ani, one of the dolphins in our Adopt a Dolphin program. She was part of a pod of seven bottlenose dolphins encountered by our Research Team.
Two of the dolphins were females with their young. Pa’ani had a juvenile dolphin tucked in next to her who was also seen with her last year.
“Pa’ani” means playful in Hawaiian. This dolphin is easily recognized by the distinct shape of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin.
With a donation of $25 or more, you can adopt Pa’ani, and in the process, you will be helping to support research, education and conservation programs to protect all dolphins and whales in the Pacific Ocean.
Find out more details about our whale and dolphin adoption program.