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Injury determinations for humpback whales and other cetaceans reported to NOAA response networks in the Hawaiian Islands during 2007-2012
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  • Description:
    Reports of cetaceans with human-caused injuries in Hawaiian waters are made each year to the Pacific Islands Region Marine Mammal Response Network (PIR-MMRN, coordinated by the Pacific Islands Regional Office) and the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network (HIERN, coordinated by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary). These injury reports have largely involved humpback whales that were entangled in fishing gear or marine debris or struck by a vessel. Previously, determinations of injury severity (i.e., serious or non-serious) for Hawaiian cetaceans, using systematic and nationally-consistent criteria, have only been made for cetaceans observed interacting with the Hawaii pelagic longline fisheries. Accordingly, most injuries reported to PIR-MMRN and HIERN have not been accounted for in the mortality and serious injury (M&SI) estimates that are a key component of the Stock Assessment Reports (SARs) for cetaceans in Hawaiian waters. The present paper addresses this gap by providing a summary of injury determinations for cetaceans in Hawaii reported injured by human causes during 2007-2012. Injury determinations were made using a revised process and refined criteria for distinguishing serious from non-serious injuries (National Marine Fisheries Service, 2012). From 2007-2012, 95 reports of cetaceans with human-caused injuries were identified, which include 39 humpback whales involved in vessel collisions, 48 humpback whales entangled in fishing gear, one other cetacean struck by a vessel, and seven other cetaceans hooked or entangled in fishing gear or marine debris. Only the 2008-2012 determinations are relevant to the 2014 SAR year. The 76 humpback whale vessel collisions and entanglements during 2008-2012 led to 34.88 serious injuries and one mortality. The resulting average of 7.18 mortalities and serious injuries per year can be considered a minimum estimate of M&SI from Hawaii for use in the 2014 SAR. For the other cetaceans in 2008-2012, serious injury determinations of relevance to the SAR were made for spinner dolphins of the Hawaii Island (n=2) and Oahu/4-Islands (n=1) stocks, a spotted dolphin of the 4-Islands stock, and a sei whale of the Hawaii stock. More effort is needed to report, document, and monitor injured Hawaiian cetaceans other than humpback whales. [doi:10.7289/V5TX3CB1 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7289/V5TX3CB1)]
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