By Delphine Berbigier
I’m trying to hide how excited I am-although I get to see humpbacks every day during the season on Maui, I’ve never seen a beaked whale. We’re not sure yet which exact species we’re after, possibly Blainville’s beaked whales, which were sighted by the group a few days prior. The Navy is gradually refining their interpretation of sounds corresponding to species thanks to the sightings on the field made by the team. No luck finding the beaked whales though. We must have missed them behind the swell. Pity. At least the sun is shining through the clouds and drying our soaked clothes.
We get another call “Cascadia-M3R. We have tursiops north of your location.” Tursiops truncatus is the scientific name for bottlenose dolphins. We make it to the area indicated by the Navy, and sure enough, we find two dolphins. One of them approaches the boat and stays with us for a few minutes. Enough time for the girls to take dozens of pictures of its dorsal fin, which will identify the animal like a fingerprint would a human, and for Daniel to shoot a satellite tag at the base of it. If all goes well, the satellite tag will stay attached and provide information on the animal’s whereabouts for about a month. So far, the team has deployed 10 tags: 2 on rough-toothed dolphins, 2 on bottlenose, 4 on short-finned pilot whales, and 2 on Blainville’s beaked whales. M3R calls us again to announce another pod to the west, but the wind is picking up and it’s getting late, so we have to head back to the harbor, mission of the day accomplished.
Dr. Robin Baird and the Cascadia Research Collective is one of the researchers that is supported by the Hawaii Ocean Project. “It’s important for us to receive flexible, independent funding, so that we can work on research projects that are important, but are not necessarily part of government agencies’ priorities and thus receive no official funding,” he says. “It can also really help us to buy new equipment, like a tagging gun or a camera.” But money is not the only thing that helps research: outreach and education is essential. As a parting gift, he hands me brochures on false killer whales to pass out at our upcoming events.
A big Mahalo to the Cascadia Research Collective!