U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, VOL. 25, NO. 2, 2009.


Management agencies often use geopolitical boundaries as proxies for biological boundaries. In Hawaiian waters a single stock is recognized of common bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, a species that is found both in open water and nearshore among the main Hawaiian Islands. To assess population structure, we photo-identified 336 distinctive individuals from the main Hawaiian Islands, from 2000 to 2006. Their generally shallow-water distribution, and numerous within-year and between-year resightings within island areas suggest that individuals are resident to the islands, rather than part of an offshore population moving through the area. Comparisons of identifications obtained from Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, O‘ahu, the “4- island area,” and the island of Hawai‘i showed no evidence of movements among these island groups, although movements from Kaua‘i to Ni‘ihau and among the “4-islands” were documented. A Bayesian analysis examining the probability of missing movements among island groups, given our sample sizes for different areas, indicates that interisland movement rates are less than 1% per year with 95% probability. Our results suggest the existence of multiple demographically independent populations of island-associated common bottlenose dolphins around the main Hawaiian islands.