Biologically Important Areas for Cetaceans Within U.S. Waters – Hawai‘i Region

Of the 18 species of odontocetes known to be present in Hawaiian waters, small resident populations of 11 species—dwarf sperm whales, Blainville’s beaked whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, pygmy killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon-headed whales, false killer whales, pantropical spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, and common bottlenose dolphins—have been identified, based on two or more lines of evidence, including results from small-boat sightings and survey effort, photo-identification, genetic analyses, and satellite tagging. In this review, we merge existing published and unpublished information along with expert judgment for the Hawai‘i region of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial waters in order to identify and support the delineation of 20 Biologically Important Areas (BIAs) for these small and resident populations, and one reproductive area for humpback whales. The geographic extent of the BIAs in Hawaiian waters ranged from approximately 700 to 23,500 km2. BIA designation enhances existing information already available to scientists, managers, policymakers, and the public. They are intended to provide synthesized information in a transparent format that can be readily used toward analyses and planning under U.S. statutes that require the characterization and minimization of impacts of anthropogenic activities on marine mammals. Odontocete BIAs in Hawai‘i are biased toward the main Hawaiian Islands and populations off the island of Hawai‘i, reflecting a much greater level of research effort and thus certainty regarding the existence and range of small resident populations off that island. Emerging evidence of similar small resident populations off other island areas in Hawaiian waters suggest that further BIA designations may be necessary as more detailed information becomes available.


Baird. R.W. D. Cholewiak, D.W. Webster, G.S. Schorr, S.D. Mahaffy, C. Curtice, J. Harrison, and S.M. Van Parijs. 2015. Biologically Important Areas for Cetaceans Within U.S. Waters – Hawai‘i Region. Aquatic Mammals 41(1): 54-64. doi: 10.1578/AM.41.1.2015.54

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