Field Log: March 2019 Maui project


Tuesday, March 26, 2019 – 14:36

Cascadia Research’s first Hawai’i field project of 2019 was based off Maui, from March 11-17, 2019. This project was the start of the 20th consecutive year of this study on Hawaiian odontocetes, although this effort was a bit different from most, as we were spending a lot of time also working with humpback whales (in conjunction with a film crew) primarily in the shallow waters of the Au Au channel. While the humpback focus may be surprising to long-term followers of our Hawai’i research, the first funding for the Hawai’i research effort (in 2000) was actually to work with humpback whales, a study examining their sub-surface and night time behavior. It was this early funding which allowed us to start the research on several species of odontocetes. The shallow waters of this area host only four species of odontocetes, and we were able to encounter all four during the project.

Endangered False Killer Whales off Lāna‘i

The crew for this project included Brittany Guenther, Jordan Lerma and Robin Baird, with help from Lee James, Lynn Padilla, David Reichert and Trent Ellis. For this project we used the Aloha Kai, provided by Ultimate Whalewatch.

By far the highlight of the week was an encounter with Cluster 4 of the endangered main Hawaiian Islands population of false killer whales. We were able to get identification photos of about 20-25 individuals, collected four biopsy samples for studies of genetics, aging, and hormone chemistry, collected three breath samples for a study of the respiratory microbiome, and obtained some beautiful GoPro and Drone footage of the group

false killer whale, Pseudorca, Hawaii, Lanai, Maui
Pseudorca crassidens

False killer whales from Cluster 4 of the endangered main Hawaiian Islands population.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_d37_bdg_0421_cr-2.jpg
Pseudorca crassidens

Fast moving false killer whales!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_d37_bdg_0465_cr-3.jpg
Pseudorca crassidens
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_d37_bdg_2320_cr_0-4.jpg
Pseudorca crassidens

False killer whales passing the cliffs off southwest Lāna‘i

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_jkl_1164_cr-5.jpg
Pseudorca crassidens with mahimahi

We also witnessed at least three predation events, this one on a mahimahi

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_d37_bdg_0166_cr-6.jpg
Stenella attenuata

An adult pantropical spotted dolphin shows the complex spotting patterns of this species. One of the few species we do not have a Hawai’i photo-identification catalog of (we have catalogs of 13 species from Hawai’i), although we are collecting photos for the eventual creation of a catalog, as there are a lot of questions about stock boundaries and fisheries interactions with this species in Hawaiian waters.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar15_jkl_0023_cr-7.jpg
Tursiops truncatus

As well as false killer whales, we also encountered two groups of bottlenose dolphins and were able to obtain identification photos to add to our photo-ID catalog for this species. There is a small resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Maui Nui area, with some movements between Maui Nui and O’ahu, so these photos will help us better understand the interactions between these two communities.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar16_d41_rwb_0077_cr-8.jpg
Megaptera novaeangliae

Spending most of our time off west Maui we had dozens of encounters with humpback whales.This one has a large bite out of it’s flipper, likely from a shark attack.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019mar12_rwb_0120_cr-9.jpg
Phalaropus fulicarius

We also photograph any unusual birds we see while on the project – the most interesting sighting of the trip was a Red Phalarope, a winter visitor to Hawai’i. For more information on birds we encounter check out our seabird page and the “Birds of the Hawaiian Islands” accounts at the Bishop Museum.

Photos on this page were taken under NMFS Permit No. 20605. Contact Robin Baird (rwbaird “at” cascadiaresearch “dot” org) for more information


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *