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Scientific name: Peponocephala electra
Stock Assessment / Estimated Breeding Population
Accurate and detailed information about the population of these whales in the Pacific Islands Region is still largely unknown. Large herds or pods are seen regularly in Hawaiian waters, especially off the Waianae coast of Oahu, the north Kohala coast of Hawaii, and the leeward coast of Lanai.
For a current Stock Assessment Report (SAR) please visit:
Melon-headed whales are not listed as "threatened" or "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and although they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), these whales are not considered depleted in Hawaiian waters.
Melon-headed whales are small odontocetes that live in a wide tropical range between 20° S and 40° N. They are deep divers that feed on mesopelagic squid. Very little is known about this species and most knowledge has come from mass strandings. The most recent mass stranding occured in the morning hours of July 3rd, 2004, when 150-200 melon-headed whales came into the shallow waters of Hanalei bay on the island of Kauai. With the help of the community and various federal and state officials, these whale were hearded back into deeper waters. One calf did not survive.
The body of the melon-headed whale is completely black or dark gray; the face and cape of the animal being the darkest parts. They also have the characteristic features of white ventral marks and pink or white lips.
These whales do not have a rostrum or beak, and have many pairs of small and sharp teeth. For that reason, this animal was once called the "many-toothed blackfish."
Melon-headed whales feed in the deep waters of the open ocean, mostly on fish, squid and crustaceans. Scientists are not certain about the actual depths that they feed, but estimate it to be up to 5,000 ft deep.
Estimated life span of at least 22 years for males and 30 years for females.
- Anthropogenic noise
- Interactions with commercial fisheries
- Marine debris entanglement or ingestion
- Marine pollutants
Current Management Issues
Developing strategies to limit and reduce anthropogenic noise.
- Final Report Hawaiian Melon-headed Whale Mass Stranding Event of July 3-4, 2004 (Apr 2006, pdf 4.35 MB)
- July 2004 Melon-Headed Whale Mass Stranding in Hawaii Fact Sheet (Apr 2006, pdf 482 kB)