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Hawaii's Toothed Whales & Dolphins By Robin W. Baird hile humpback whales get most of the attention when they arrive in Hawaii for the winter, there are actually 11 species of toothed whales and dolphins that reside in the islands year-round, and a number of others that just pass through. The resident species include not only spinner dolphins, which can be found resting during the day in a number of bays, but also beaked whales, pilot whales, melon-headed whales, and Pseudorca, the endangered false killer whale. Pseudorca are mid-sized (12-18') black toothed whales, that love to bowride on vessels, and actively hunt during the day, chasing and catching mahi mahi, ahi and other large game fish. They cooperatively hunt, like wolves or the more well-known killer whales, and share their prey – they've even been known to share fish with humans. Pseudorca are the most threatened of all whales and dolphins in Hawaiian waters – their population has declined over the last 20 years for a variety of reasons – partly because they do take hooked fish off lines, and occasionally get hooked in the process. Many of the fish they eat, like ahi, are also smaller and less numerous than they once were, making it harder for Pseudorca to find and catch fish. They are also at the top of the food chain, thus accumulating pesticides and other chemicals that can impact their immune systems. Pseudorca can be seen in both shallow and deep waters in Hawai'i, but are always moving, so often just pass through the Au Au Channel, not to be seen again for weeks at a time. They got the name false killer whales because their skulls look very similar to those of killer whales. Killer whales are very uncommon in Hawaiian waters, only occasionally moving through the area before they return to the open ocean. During one killer whale encounter last year off Kona, individuals were seen eating a thresher shark, but killer whales in Hawaii also feed on dolphins and there has even been one report of them killing a humpback whale calf. Palaoa, Hawaii's Sperm Whales By Fred Sharpe, Phillip Clapham & Sharon Birzer, Kenneth O'Brien, Susan A. Lebo link to the spirituality of ancient Hawaiians lives in the deep blue waters surrounding our island paradise. Of all the animals, the sperm whale represents the largest manifestation of Kanaloa, god of the ocean realm. Stranded whales were claimed by the chief, and their bodies were used for food and oil. Sperm whale teeth were especially prized, as they provided ivory for the sacred necklace, or "lei niho palaoa". Research into Hawaii's history has revealed that sperm whales were once the most common, year-round, large whale in the deeper channels between the islands. Sightings from the mid-1800s include a pod of nearly 100 individuals off the island of Hawaii, and another group of 45 which were sighted off Kauai. Sperm whales were also observed closer to shore, including a pod that swam into Kalepolepo Bay. A very large bull was noted at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. The Kumulipo, the Hawaiian birth chant, speaks: "born the sperm whale living in the ocean." The Kumulipo also states that certain plants were the protector of the animals, and that sperm whales were "kept by the sandalwood living on the land." When Westerners arrived in the late 1700s, they were adept at exploiting the islands' living wealth including the Sandalwood forests. As Kumulipo foretold, the loss of sandalwood resulted in the sperm whales no longer being protected, as they became the favored target of the whalers. Similar to other whale populations throughout the world, Hawaiian sperm whales were intensively exploited and their numbers diminished. The recovery of sperm whales is important, as they stimulate primary productivity with their iron-rich feces. When they die of natural causes, they sink to the bottom and provide carcasses for unique whale-fall communities. As North Pacific populations steadily recover from whaling, perhaps once again we can celebrate the joy—and ecosystem benefits—of these manifestations of Kanaloa, god of the ocean realm. Maui Magic Beyond the Humpback Whale Researchers weigh in on other mammals you may see in Hawaii W A WHALES BLAINVILLE'S BEAKED WHALE CUVIER'S BEAKED WHALE DWARF SPERM WHALE HUMPBACK WHALE KILLER WHALE PYGMY SPERM WHALE SPERM WHALE SEALS HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL DOLPHIN BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN FALSE KILLER WHALE MELON-HEADED WHALE PANTROPICAL SPOTTED DOLPHIN RISSO'S DOLPHIN ROUGH-TOOTHED DOLPHIN SHORT-FINNED PILOT WHALE SPINNER DOLPHIN STRIPED DOLPHIN MARINE MAMMALS OF HAWAII SEA MAMMALS © Sharon Birzer 37 Maui Whale Watch Magazine • WhaleWatchingOnMaui.com

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