Cetacean Surveys Conducted in the Hawaiian Archipelago

From early August to early December 2010, staff of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center conducted the Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey, or HICEAS. This large-scale collaborative survey involved the NOAA Ships Oscar Elton Sette and MacArthur II and covered the entire 200 nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the Hawaiian Islands, including the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The last HICEAS survey was in 2002.

Fraser's dolphins in waters of the Hawaiian Islands.
Fraser's dolphins in waters of the Hawaiian Islands.

The primary goal of the survey was to collect data necessary to calculate new estimates of abundance for each cetacean species in Hawaii EEZ waters. The scientific field parties used visual and acoustic line-transect methods, with the survey tracklines designed to cover uniformly the waters within the EEZ from the Island of Hawaii to Kure Atoll.

Over 400 sightings of cetaceans were recorded during the survey, and a similar number of acoustic detections. In addition, 147 skin biopsy samples were collected from over 10 species, including 40 samples of false killer whales in the offshore and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands portions of the study area. Analysis of survey data is underway and new abundance estimates should be available for most species by the end of 2011.