Fraser’s dolphins in Hawai‘i

Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei) off the island of Hawaii, April 30, 2008.

As of August 2021 we have only documented Fraser’s dolphins seven times in our surveys (once in 2008 and in 2012, twice in 2015 and 2020, and once in August 2021). Six of our seven sightings have been off Hawai‘i Island, and just one off Kaua‘i (in August 2021). Prior to our April 2008 sighting this species had only been recorded twice in Hawaiian waters, both sightings from November 2002 far to the northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, seen during a NMFS survey (the HICEAS survey, see Barlow 2006). Our 2008 sighting was the first of this species around the main Hawaiian Islands.

Fraser’s dolphins off the island of Hawai‘i. Fraser’s dolphins have very small dorsal fins relative to the body size, and a very short but distinct beak (rostrum). Pigmentation patterns differ between the sexes, adult males have a thick dark strip extending posterior from the eye (visible in the individual at the far left as well as below).

An adult male Fraser’s dolphin. The group we saw actively avoided the research vessel. Such behavior may explain why this species is seen so infrequently in Hawaiian waters. Of our seven sightings, five were of Fraser’s dolphins associating with much larger groups of melon-headed whales.

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Updated November 2021.

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