Assessing threats to Hawai'i's spinner dolphins January 23, 2014 Researchers have completed the most extensive study of the Hawai’i Island spinner dolphin population to date, with the data to be used to inform the local management agency. Photo: Julian Tyne, Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit Lead researcher Julian Tyne, from the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, said there were concerns that human activities were having a negative impact on the dolphins. “Hawai’i’s spinner dolphins have a rigid daily routine, foraging for food in the open ocean at night and returning to sheltered bays to rest and socialise during the day,” he said. “These bays have seen a significant increase in tourist activity over the past 20 years, with a surge in dolphin watching boat tours and businesses offering the opportunity to interact with dolphins. “It has previously been suggested that the dolphins are spending less time in the sheltered bays and that their rest is being interrupted, which may impact their ability to forage efficiently and spot predators.” The project is a collaboration between Murdoch University and Duke University (Durham, North Carolina). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Marine Mammal Commission, Dolphin Quest and Murdoch University funded the research. Researchers spent over two and a half years on Hawai’i Island, using modern visual and acoustic technology to collect baseline data. “From the first year of our study, we estimated that there are 631 spinner dolphins among the Hawai’i Island associated stock, which is lower than any previous estimate, with a survival rate of 97 per cent,” Mr Tyne said. “These dolphins don’t tend to mix with dolphins from other islands, meaning they are genetically more distinct. “When this is combined with their rigid daily routine and ease of human access to the dolphins in their preferred resting habitats, they may be more vulnerable to negative impacts.” In 2006, the Government of Western Australia reduced the number of commercial boat tour licences operating in the Shark Bay / Monkey Mia region, following the results of a similar study into the region’s bottlenose dolphins. Mr Tyne said Hawaiian authorities were considering a number of strategies to help mitigate the impact of human interactions on the spinner dolphin population. “Most people have good intentions and are excited at the idea of interacting with dolphins,” he said. “These interactions need to be managed to protect animals from harm, while ensuring the sustainability of wildlife tourism in Hawai’i.” The study has been published in open access journal PLOS ONE and is available here. Julian Tyne has authored a blog post about this research, which is available here. Print This Post Media contact: Candice Barnes Tel: (08) 9360 2474 | Mobile: 0408 201 309 | Email: email@example.com Categories: General, Teaching and Learning, Future Students, International students, Research, Schools, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences Research Tags: bottlenose dolphin, dolphin quest, duke university, hawaii, julian tyne, marine mammal commission, monkey mia, murdoch university, murdoch university cetacean research unit, national oceanic and atmospheric administration, shark bay, spinner dolphin, tourism Leave a comment Name (required) Mail (will not be published) (required) Website You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published. Thanks for commenting!