HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are roughly between 350 and 400 spinner dolphins that call the crystal-clear blue waters off the west side of Oahu home, according to researchers at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Hawaii (UH).
Biologists also determined these dolphins are not particularly fond of road trips, based on their studies.
“They don’t range over very large areas, which is very unique to this particular species,” said HIMB Director Lars Bejder. “No other species of dolphin in the world does that. They go offshore and forage and feed at night, and then in the daytime, they go into the shallow coastal calm waters, which is exactly where people can see them.”
Bejder recently launched the study to determine the value of a dolphin based on the direct amount of spending generated by the beloved animals, and the results are astounding.
“We went about this by looking at how many tourists every year go to see spinner dolphins through a commercial operator,” Bejder said. “Once you do that, you look at tickets that are sold. Then you look at the price of a ticket and you can calculate how much money the industry generates. And if you have a rough idea of how many animals are out there, have them do some calculations to figure out what is the value of one single spinner dolphin.”
It turns out the value of a spinner dolphin is quite pricy.
“Yes, a single spinner dolphin of the Waianae coast throughout its lifetime is worth about $3.3 million per animal,” Bejder said.
Bejder points out that the figure does not even take into account any indirect spending including lodging, transportation and food.
“It is a fascinating result and it does speak to why we need to preserve and conserve these animals, not just for the animals themselves but for the value of these animals to the local economy.”
He says, as much as the dolphins enjoy interacting with us, they are yet another natural resource everyone must be careful not to love to death.
“That’s absolutely correct. I get pretty grumpy if I don’t get enough rest and sleep and if I don’t get enough food. Same thing with these animals,” Bejder said. “They have a behavioral budget and if that is broken down it certainly has long-term consequences for the population. So we want to make sure it’s a viable population by safeguarding them and not getting to close and not interacting with them too much.”