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New publication: Cashing in on spinner dolphins

Written by Lars Bejder


We are pleased to announce the following publication by Dr Carlie Wiener and co-authors in Frontiers in Marine Science entitled:


Cashing in on Spinners: Revenue estimates of wild dolphin-swim tourism in the Hawaiian Islands.


Full citation details: Wiener, C., Bejder, L., Johnston, D., Fawcett, L., and Wilkinson, P. 2020. Cashing in on Spinners: Revenue estimates of wild dolphin-swim tourism in the Hawaiian Islands. Frontiers in Marine Science. 7:660. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00660


Abstract:

Wild dolphin-swim tourism has grown in specific locations where Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) have known resting habitat. The increased growth in dolphin-swim businesses has created an industry in Hawaii that earns an estimated $102 million (USD) annually in 2013. Semi-structured interviews with business owners, market research, and boat-based observations provide a platform for estimating revenue generated from dolphin tourism in two popular locations, Waianae, Oahu and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island. A revenue analysis of dolphin-swim tourism is presented using a peak season and utilization rate model. These predictions offer an accountability exercise based on a series of assumptions regarding wild dolphin-swim demand and an annual estimate of the number of viewing participants and revenue earned. The results show that dolphin viewing companies are making a larger profit than dolphin-swim businesses by approximately $19 million (USD) per year, however, both avenues are generating large earnings. Sizable differences between businesses in Kona and Waianae are discussed. The average lifetime revenue generated by a dolphin in 2013 is estimated at $3,364,316 (USD) for Waianae and $1,608,882 (USD) for Kona, and is presented as a first step in scenario analysis for policy makers looking to implement management in the bays where tourism occurs. This study offers the first revenue estimates of spinner dolphin tourism in Hawaii, which can provide context for further discussion on the impact and economic role of the dolphin-swim industry in the state.


Photo credit: Dr Julian Tyne, NOAA permit # 15409.

Excerpts from University of Hawaii at Manoa press release:

“What surprised us was the study showed that dolphin viewing companies are making a larger profit than dolphin-swim businesses by an estimated $19 million per year,” said Carlie Wiener, PhD, University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa’s and lead-author of the study. “There are sizable differences between businesses in Kona and Waiʻanae, which has significant impacts for how these businesses are managed. We see this paper as a first step for policy makers looking to implement management in areas where tourism occurs and can provide context for further discussion on the ecological impact and economic role of the dolphin-swim industry in the state. We need to take into account protection for the dolphins, but also the livelihoods of the tour operators.”


These observations have important considerations as the state of Hawaiʻi considers new regulations and management of the dolphin-tourism industry and offers resource managers a way of planning for future growth and risk assessment of a previously underestimated component of the marine tourism industry in Hawaiʻi.


“NOAA is currently evaluating management options for the protection of spinner dolphins in Hawaiʻi,” said Lars Bejder, PhD, an associate researcher at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) and co-author of study. “This is particularly important given that recent research has identified that spinner dolphins in resting bays off the Kona coast have the highest exposure rates to human activities anywhere in the world (information available here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.171506 and https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/swimming-with-spinner-dolphins-hawaii-island/index.html). High exposure rates to humans within critical habitats is cause for concern for the long-term viability of the dolphins and hence the dolphin-tourism industry. It is paramount that appropriate regulations are implemented to ensure long-term sustainability.”


Photo credit: Dr Julian Tyne, NOAA permit # 15409.

The paper is freely available:

Wiener, C., Bejder, L., Johnston, D., Fawcett, L., and Wilkinson, P. 2020. Cashing in on Spinners: Revenue estimates of wild dolphin-swim tourism in the Hawaiian Islands. Frontiers in Marine Science. 7:660. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00660


Please contact Dr Carlie Wiener for further details: cwiener@schmidtocean.org


A University of Hawaii news release can be found here: https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2020/08/13/dolphin-tourism-research/


Below we provide a list of other relevant scientific papers on Hawaiian spinner dolphins:

Tyne, J., Christiansen, F., Heenehan, H., Johnston, D. and Bejder, L. 2018. Chronic exposure of Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) to human activities in important resting habitats. Royal Society of Open Science. doi: 10.1098/rsos.171506


Heenehan, H., Van Parijs, S., Bejder, L., Tyne, J., Southall, B., Southall, H. and Johnston, D. 2017. Natural and anthropogenic events influence the soundscapes of four bays on Hawaii Island. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 124: 9-20 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.06.065


Heenehan, H., Van Parijs, S.M. Bejder, L., Tyne, J.A. and Johnston, D. 2017. Differential effects of human activity on Hawaiian spinner dolphins in their resting bays. Global Ecology and Conservation. 10: 60-69 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2017.02.003


Tyne, J., Johnston, D., Christiansen, F. and Bejder, L. 2017. Temporally and spatially partitioned behaviours of spinner dolphins: Implications for resilience to human disturbance. Royal Society of Open Science. 4: 160626. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160626


Heenehan, H., Van Parijs, S.M. Bejder, L., Tyne, J. and Johnston, D.W. 2017. Using acoustics to prioritize management decisions to protect coastal dolphins: a case study using Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Marine Policy 75: 84-90. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.10.015


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. https://dx.doi.org/10.1098%2Frsos.171506


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. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 140: 206-215. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4955094


Heenehan, H., Basurto, X., Bejder, L., Tyne, J., Higham, J. and Johnston, D. 2015. Using Ostrom’s common pool research theory to build and integrated ecosystem-based sustainable cetacean tourism systems in Hawai`i. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 23: 536-556. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2016.10.015


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. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52:612-630. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12434


Tyne, J., Pollock, K.H., Johnston, D. and Bejder, L. 2014. Abundance and survival rates of the Hawai'i Island associated spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) stock. PLoS One. 9(1): e86132. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0086132

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