Samoa Research Project – Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) site fidelity, behavior and habitat use along the north-western coast of Savaii Island, Samoa – Study by Juney Ward
Juney Ward, a postgraduate student at the University of the South Pacific, recently carried out the first dedicated cetacean research in the Samoan waters as part of her postgraduate study. The WDCS funded research was designed as a contribution to the Pacific Cetaceans MoU, and documented the site fidelity, demographic composition, behavior and habitat use of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) in the north-western coast of Savaii Island, Samoa.
Most spinner dolphin sightings were recorded close to the shore and at various sites. However, in comparison with other areas, Falealupo and Sataua areas had much higher encounter rates of dolphins. Juney’s findings on the spinner dolphins in Samoan waters indicate that the north-western coast of Savaii Island supports a sufficient density of spinner dolphins. The daily movement and habitat preference of spinner dolphins in Samoan waters were observed to be similar to those observed in Hawaii and French Polynesia; in the mornings, they were observed to be mainly resting and swimming slowly in the same direction for hours and in the afternoons, they were more active – frequently leaping and swimming with the resting behavior to a minimal.
Juney’s study also concluded that in addition to the presence of spinner dolphins in Samoan waters, other cetacean diversity and presence (sperm and short-finned pilot whales observed) can be found year round in the Samoan waters.
Institute of Marine Resources receives research funding from the Pacific Agricultural Researcn for Development Activity (PARDI)
IMR has been awarded over FJ$600,000 for its project Value-adding and supply chain development for fisheries and aquaculture products in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The funding is over a 2.5 year period, and is a cooperation between USP, SPC, the University of Queensland, James Cook University and the University of Adelaide. PARDI is overseen by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and is managed by Dr Steven Underhill, University of Queensland. ACIAR will also look favourably at USP Post-graduates applying for ACIAR scholarships related to the PARDI programme.
The focus of the project is on the potential supply chain enhancement and value adding of two selected commodities in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, namely tilapia and the seaweed Caulerpa (nama in Fiji). For tilapia, which is a common aquaculture species in Fiji, the focus will be on the development of a reliable supply chain, and on value-adding such as kippering, smoking, and products such as surimi and re-formed fish fillets. For Caulerpa, which is a hand-harvested delicacy in all three countries, the main focus will be on developing a reliable supply chain and researching and building on previous work on enhancing the very short shelf-life. The Division of Marine Studies post-harvest laboratory will be actively involved in the project, under the supervision of Dr Jimaima Lako, Lecturer in Post-Harvest Fisheries.
Project Coordinator Professor South says that the "project will contribute to ACIAR’s PARDI project, focussing on research and development of targeted high value fisheries products. The ultimate goal will be to develop ways of improving the competitiveness of the fishery within the local and international marketplaces, and to improve the contribution of the subsistence and aquaculture fishery to national GDPs.”
The project has been made possible through an agreement between the University of Queensland and USP, overseen by the Faculty of Business and Economics and through the facilitating role played by Dean Biman Prasad. The project is scheduled for completion in May, 2013.
Fiji Humpback Whale Survey
Fiji Fisheries Department, WDCS International, WWF, the University of the South Pacific, SPREP and the Australian Govenrment are working together to undertake humpback whale migrations surveys and cetacean diversity research in the Fiji Islands. A group of 17 Fisheries Officers, NGO's, researchers, students, community members and volunteers set sail on the traditional Pacific boat, the Uto ni Yalo with the Fiji Islands Voyaging Society to the project sites in Levuka and Makogai last Friday morning. Conditions were relatively calm and there was much excitement as the group made the 8 hour crossing to Levuka. Excitement increased as a minke whale was encoutered along the trip.
Since surveys have started there have been many cetacean sightings. The Makogai site has seen numerous humpback whale pods every day and have also managed to collect some fluke identification images. The Levuka crew has also been busy. They have seen numerous large pods of spinner dolphins, a minke whale, a sperm whale and also have made a tentative record of a pygmy or dwarf sperm whale. This is the first record for diminuitive sperm whales in Fijian waters. Levuka has also been visited by numerous pods of humpbacks including a mother and calf pair. The Levuka researchers have also managed to collect some humpback whale song recordings aboard the Uto ni Yalo. These early survey results demonstrate a great start to the project. We anticipate more valuable results and are hoping that the weather will continue to be excellent for whale and dolphin sightings.