Scientists ask fishermen for small pieces of their catches

LIHUE — Scientists studying the feeding patterns of Hawaii whales and dolphins are asking for help collecting samples from the fishing community.

They’re looking for small slices, less than half an inch in size, of local catches to pair up with other data collected in the field, according to Robin Baird, researcher with Cascadia Research Collective, the nonprofit doing the research.

Cascadia Research Collective combines the talents of scientists from all over the U.S. to conduct research on many different animals and ecosystems. They’ve conducted research for the U.S. Navy and other government entities, as well as put out their own papers on studies aimed at marine mammals and birds.

“We are hoping to get samples from a wide diversity of fish including pelagics like mahimahi, ahi, aku, ono, opah, monchong, kawakawa, a‘u, as well as some that aren’t the regular target of fishermen like flying fish and needlefish,” Baird said.

The small samples from both reef and pelagic fish will help interpret results from skin biopsies taken from 12 different species of dolphins and whales.

The goal is to better understand the trophic ecology, basically the food chain, of Hawaii whales and dolphins.

Anyone interested can shave off a half-inch-cube muscle sample of the fish they’d like to submit to the study and put it in a small, sealed plastic bag. Label that with the date, island and species of the fish, as well as the size and sex, if known.

Scientists hope to get samples from five to 10 individuals of each species, and would like to include samples from both game fish and forage fish.

“Samples need to be frozen,” Baird said. “We’ll be on island in February for a field project and could arrange to get samples from folks who have saved them during that visit.”

Anyone interested can contact Baird, rwbaird@cascadiaresearch.org.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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