Pacific Islands Region

HICEASThe 2017 Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (HICEAS, pronounced “high-seas”) is a 187-day survey for cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and seabirds within the U.S. waters of the Hawaiian Islands. The HICEAS is taking place July through December 2017 aboard two NOAA ships: the Oscar Elton Sette and the Reuben Lasker.  The study area is approximately 1.8 million square nautical miles (2.5 million km2), including waters surrounding all Northwest and Main Hawaiian Islands out to 200 nautical miles offshore. Waters within this 200 nautical mile boundary around the Hawaiian Islands are referred to as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, or “EEZ.”

HICEAS is a collaboration between the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center located in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center located in San Diego, California. The goals are to estimate how many cetaceans are in Hawaii, examine their population structure, and understand their habitat. Large-scale surveys like HICEAS are rare, and so the survey design is maximized to support as many partners as possible. The 2017 survey is especially significant as it will provide important data for several management priorities, including:

  1. Cetacean and seabird species inventory, abundance, and habitat information for the recently expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (or “Monument”);
  2. New abundance estimates for false killer whales in support of the False Killer Whale Take-Reduction Plan (TRP), as well as for all cetacean species as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA);
  3. Updated abundance and distribution data for large whale, sea turtle, and seabird species listed under the Endangered Species Act; and
  4. Updated cetacean and seabird assessments used to evaluate whether bycatch rates in U.S. fisheries are sustainable under the MMPA and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Reauthorization Act.

HICEAS 2017 will kick-off a new multi-agency plan called Pacific Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (PacMAPPS). PacMAPPS is a partnership among NOAA Fisheries, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to collect data and produce an abundance estimate for species of joint management interest. PacMAPPS includes rotational surveys throughout the Pacific to assess the abundance of cetacean species and their ecosystems.


POC:  Erin Oleson,

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