Kona Coast of Hawaii Island IMMA

Area Size 97 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Spinner dolphin – Stenella longirostris

Criterion B (i, ii); D (i)


This IMMA is designated on the basis of the presence of a small, resident population of Hawaii Island spinner dolphins, which are genetically distinct and occur predictably during the day in four bays (Makako, Kealakekua, Honaunau and Kauhako) along the Kona coast of Hawaii. Recent research demonstrated that Hawaii Island spinner dolphin abundance is small and that population size may be declining. Hawaii spinner dolphins are less likely to rest outside of their preferred resting bays, indicating the importance of these circumscribed areas. Their constrained behavioural schedule may make them less resilient to disturbance, and they are exposed to human activities (<100m) for 82.7% of day time hours within their resting bays.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion Bi: Small and Resident Populations

Genetic analyses has shown that the spinner dolphins of Hawaii are distinct from other spinner dolphin populations/sub-species in the Pacific region (Andrews, 2009), and the Hawaii Island spinner population is the most genetically isolated population in the Hawaiian archipelago (Andrews et al., 2010). Recent research on the Hawaii Island spinner dolphins consisted of a rigorous and systematic sampling regime that collected photo-id data on the animals and clearly demonstrated that the spinner dolphins using the bays in the IMMA are present in small, resident populations. Using POPAN mark-recapture models two consecutive annual abundance estimates were generated (Tyne et al., 2014b, Tyne et al., 2016), of 631 (95% CI: 524-761 – Tyne et al., 2014) and 668 (95% CI: 556-801 – Tyne et al., 2016).  These estimates are lower than any previous published estimates, 960 (Norris et al., 1994), 2,334 (Ostman, 1994) and 855 – 1,001 individuals (Ostman-Lind et al., 2004), which may be an indication of a possible long-term impact.

Sub-criterion Bii: Aggregations

Each of the resting bays in the IMMA can have aggregations of resting Hawaii Island spinner dolphins present on a daily basis throughout the year (Norris et al., 1994, Thorne et al., 2012, Tyne et al., 2015).

Criterion D: Special Attributes  

Sub-criterion Di: Distinctiveness

Genetic analyses has shown that the spinner dolphins of Hawaii are distinct from other spinner dolphin populations/sub-species in the Pacific region (Andrews, 2009), and that there are genetic distinctions throughout the Hawaiian archipelago (Andrews et al., 2010). The Hawaii Island spinner population is the most genetically isolated population in the Hawaiian archipelago (Andrews et al., 2010). As a consequence, spinner dolphins in Hawaii have been divided into five different island/island-group management units under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act 1972 (MMPA, 1972) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that correspond with two broad geographical regions: 1.) three in the Mainland Hawaiian Islands: Hawai’i Island, Oahu/4-Islands area, Kauai/Niihau, and 2.) two in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands: Pearl & Hermes Reef and Kure/Midway.

Supporting Information

Andrews, K. R. 2009. Barriers to gene flow in the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris). PhD dissertation for the Department of Zooology. University of Hawai’i.

Andrews, K. R., Karczmarski, L., Au, W. W. L., Rickards, S. H., Vanderlip, C. A., Bowenn, B. W., Gordon Grau, E. and Toonen, R. J. 2010. Rolling stones and stable homes: social structure, habitat diversity and population genetics of the Hawaiian spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris). Molecular Ecology, 19, 732-748.

Beniot-bird, K. J. and Au, W. W. L. 2003. Prey dynamics affect foraging by a pelagic predator (Stenella longirostris) over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 53, 364-373.

Benoit-bird, K. J. and Au, W. W. L. 2009. Cooperative prey herding by the pelagic dolphin, Stenella longirostris. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125, 125-137.

Edgar, G. J., Stuart-smith, R. D., Willis, T. J., Kininmonth, S., Baker, S. C., Banks, S., Barrett, N. S., Becerro, M. A., Bernard, A. T. F., Berkhout, J., Buxton, C. D., Campbell, S. J., Cooper, A. T., Davey, M., Edgar, S. C., Forsterra, G., Galvan, D. E., Irigoyen, A. J., Kushner, D. J., Moura, R., Parnell, P. E., Shears, N. T., Soler, G., Strain, E. M. A. and Thomson, R. J. 2014. Global conservation outcomes depend on marine protected areas with five key features. Nature, 506, 216-220.

Gormley, A. M., Slooten, E., Dawson, S., Barker, R. J., Rayment, W., Du Fresne, S. and Brager, S. 2012. First evidence that marine protected areas can work for marine mammals. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 474-480.

Heenehan, H., Basurto, X., Bejder, L., Tyne, J., Higham, J. E. S. and Johnston, D. W. 2015. Using Ostrom’s common-pool resource theory to build toward an integrated ecosystem-based sustainable cetacean tourism system in Hawai`i. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23, 536-556.

Heenehan, H. L., Tyne, J. A., Bejder, L., Van Parijs, S. M. and Johnston, D. W. 2016. Passive acoustic monitoring of coastally associated Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Stenella longirostris, ground-truthed through visual surveys. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 140, 206-215.

Heenehan, H. L., Van Parijs, S. M., Bejder, L., Tyne, J. A. and Johnston, D. W. 2017a. Differential effects of human activity on Hawaiian spinner dolphins in their resting bays. Global Ecology and Conservation, 10, 60-69.

Heenehan, H. L., Van Parijs, S. M., Bejder, L., Tyne, J. A., Southall, B. L., Southall, H. and Johnston, D. W. 2017b. Natural and anthropogenic events influence the soundscapes of four bays on Hawaii Island. Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Kinzey, D. and Gerrodette, T. 2003. Distance measurements using binoculars from ships at sea: accuracy, precision and effects of refraction Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, 5, 159-171.

MMPA 1972. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. 16 U.S.C. et seq. and 50 CFR part 216.

NOAA 2005. Protecting spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands from human activities that cause ‘‘Take,’’ as defined in the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its implementing regulations, or to otherwise adversely affect the dolphins NOAA 051110296–5296–01; I.D.102405A.

NOAA 2016. Protective Regulations for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act  81 FR 57854 080302361-6677-01.

Norris, K. S. 1991. Dolphin Days, New York, WW Norton and Co., New York.

Norris, K. S., Würsig, B., Wells, S. and Würsig, M. 1994. The Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press.

Ostman-Lind, J., Driscoll-Lind, A. and Rickards, S. 2004. Delphinid abundance, distribution and habitat use off the western coast of the island of Hawai’i. Administrative Report. Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Ostman, J. 1994. Social organization and social behavior of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris). PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Thorne, L. H., Johnston, D. W., Urban, D. L., Tyne, J., Bejder, L., Baird, R. W., Yin, S., Rickards, S. H., Deakos, M. H., Mobley, J. R., Jr., Pack, A. A. and Chapla Hill, M. 2012. Predictive modeling of spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) resting habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands. PLoS ONE, 7, e43167.

Timmel, G., Courbis, S., Sargeant-Green, H. & Markowitz, H. 2008. Effects of human traffic on the movement patterns of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii. Aquatic Mammals, 34, 402-411.

Tyne, J. A. 2015. A scientific foundation for informed management decisions: Quantifying the abundance, important habitat and cumulative exposure of the Hawaii Island spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) stock to human activities. PhD, Murdoch University.

Tyne, J. A., Johnston, D. W., Christiansen, F. and Bejder, L. 2017. Temporally and spatially partitioned behaviours of spinner dolphins: implications for resilience to human disturbance. Royal Society Open Science, 4.

Tyne, J. A., Johnston, D. W., Rankin, R., Loneragan, N. R. and Bejder, L. 2015. The importance of spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) resting habitat: Implications for management doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12434. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52, 621-630.

Tyne, J. A., Loneragan, N. and Bejder, L. 2014a. The use of area–time closures as a tool to manage cetacean-watch tourism. In: HIGHAM, J., BEJDER, L. & WILLIAMS, R. (eds.) Whale-watching: Sustainable Tourism and Ecological Management. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tyne, J. A., Loneragan, N. R., Johnston, D. W., Pollock, K. H., Williams, R. and Bejder, L. 2016. Evaluating monitoring methods for cetaceans. Biological Conservation, 201, 252-260.

Tyne, J. A., Pollock, K. H., Johnston, D. W. and Bejder, L. 2014b. Abundance and Survival Rates of the Hawai’i Island Associated Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) Stock. PLoS ONE, 9, e86132.


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