Protected Resources

Main Hawaiian Islands Insular False Killer Whale Distinct Population Segment

False Killer Whale illustration by NOAA Fisheries

Scientific name: Pseudorca crassidens

Management Issues

Recover Planning Efforts

The ESA mandates that NOAA Fisheries develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of ESA-listed species under NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction.

Endangered Species Listing

On October 1, 2009, NOAA Fisheries received a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat to ensure its recovery pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended.

Critical Habitat

On November 3, 2017, NOAA Fisheries published a proposed rule (82 FR 51186) to designate critical habitat for main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whales in waters from 45 meters to 3200 meters in depth surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands (from Ni‘ihau to Hawai‘i Island), under the Endangered Species Act.

Recovery Planning

Background

In November 2012, we listed the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) insular false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) as an endangered distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (77 FR 70915; November 28, 2012). In 2013, we published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a recovery plan for the MHI insular false killer whale and solicited relevant information (78 FR 60850; October 2, 2013). We received relevant species and habitat information from seven commenters. This information will be considered when developing the recovery plan. On October 4, 2016, we published a second NOI and again requested information that would be useful in recovery planning, and also noted that we would hold a recovery planning workshop for the species from October 25-28, 2016 (81 FR 68405; see below for information on the workshop). No additional information to inform recovery planning was received during this second NOI.

Recovery Outline

The ESA mandates that NMFS develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of ESA-listed species under NMFS’ jurisdiction. We developed a recovery outline to guide recovery actions for the MHI insular false killer whale DPS in a systematic, cohesive way until a recovery plan is completed. To develop this recovery outline, we used information from the final listing rule (77 FR 70915; November 28, 2012), the status review of the species (Oleson et al. 2010), the addendum to the status review (Oleson et al. 2012), information received from publication of the NOI, and the final 2015 Stock Assessment Report (SAR) (Carretta et al. 2016).

Recovery Planning Workshop

On October 25-28, 2016, we held a recovery planning workshop to update the threats analysis from the final listing rule (77 FR 70915; November 28, 2012) and the 2010 Status Review, and identify potential recovery criteria and actions to address the threats to MHI insular false killer whales. Identified stakeholders invited to participate included Federal and state agencies, scientific experts, conservation partners and non-governmental organizations, and commercial and recreational fishermen. We sought information and facts; we did not ask for a consensus recommendation on how to recover the insular DPS. This workshop was open to the public. For more information, please read the Federal Register notice announcing the workshop here.

  • A copy of the Recovery Planning Workshop agenda can be found here.
  • The Recovery Planning Workshop Summary can be found here.

Recovery Plan Preparation

We have initiated the preparation of a draft recovery plan for MHI insular false killer whales. We will use the most recent NMFS Interim Recovery Planning Guidance from June 2010. In addition, for this specific recovery plan we intend to use a new approach that has recently been developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The intent of this strategy, briefly described below, is to make recovery planning more efficient and effective and to create a more dynamic and flexible plan, presented in independent parts so it can more easily be updated. These parts are the Species Status Assessment, Recovery Plan, and, if necessary, a Recovery Implementation Strategy.

Species Status Assessment (SSA)
Using the 2010 Status Review Report (Oleson et al. 2010) for the MHI insular false killer whale as a foundation, we are developing an up-to-date SSA. An SSA is a stand-alone document that summarizes the status of the species and can be updated as necessary with new information and used for various purposes, including 5-year reviews, critical habitat designations (if it hasn’t already been designated), and the background for ESA recovery plans, section 7 analyses and section 10 conservation plans. Traditionally this information was included in the background of a recovery plan and became outdated quickly. As a stand-alone living document, information can be kept more relevant.

Recovery Plan (RP)
We have begun development of a RP. The three statutory elements required in a recovery plan will be contained in this second stand-alone document: (1) objective, measurable recovery criteria; (2) a description of site-specific management actions necessary to conserve the species; and (3) estimates of the time and costs required to achieve the plan’s goals. In addition, a brief introduction to the plan will provide the vision (what the recovered species looks like) and strategy (the rationale for, and how we plan to get to a recovered state). This will provide the trail of logic for recovery and reference the SSA.

As a start to developing the RP, NMFS convened a recovery planning on October 25-28, 2016, with several targeted, threats-specific working groups to update the threats analysis from the final listing rule and status review, and identify potential research and recovery actions to address the threats. These working groups will consist of experts from Federal and state agencies, scientific experts, conservation partners and non-governmental organizations, and commercial and recreational fishermen. We were looking for information and facts; we will not be asking for a consensus recommendation on how to recover the insular DPS. This workshop was publicly noticed and open to the public. A draft RP document will go out for public review and comment before being finalized and posted on the web. 

Recovery Implementation Strategy (RIS)
If necessary, the detailed activities for implementing the recovery actions in the RP may be outlined in a third, “living” document – the RIS. This document may focus on the near-term, strategic implementation of the RP and will likely reflect what comes out of our collaboration from the recovery planning workshop. The RIS generally includes items such as the potentially multiple activities that contribute to each recovery plan action, priorities for implementation, timing, and partner affiliations. Keeping the more detailed implementation activities in a separate document that does not need formal public review and comment (unless there is a change in recovery strategy or direction) will afford the opportunity for more frequent updating and allow for adjustment according to new information and changing circumstances. However, it is not yet clear in the case of this species, if a separate RIS will be necessary; the detailed activities for implementing the recovery actions may simply be a part of the RP. If a separate RIS is developed, it will be posted on the web.

For more information on recovery of species under the ESA, see here

Recovery Planning Schedule

Tentative schedule:

2016
Finalize recovery outline; post to PIRO web page
Draft SSA
Initiate development of RP/RIS
Hold recovery planning workshop

2017
Continue development of RP/RIS
Issue draft SSA and RP/RIS for peer review
Issue draft RP/RIS for public review; post to PIRO web page

2018 and thereafter
Finalize RP/RIS; post to PIRO web page
Update SSA as new information becomes available, where necessary
Update RIS, where necessary

Endangered Species Listing

History of Endangered Species Listing:

Petition to List as an Endangered Species: On October 1, 2009, NOAA Fisheries (also known as the National Marine Fisheries Service) received a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) as an endangered species and designate critical habitat to ensure its recovery pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended. We consider the Hawaiian insular population, Hawaiian insular stock, and the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale to be synonymous.

Note that the main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale is separate from both the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands false killer whale and the Hawaii pelagic false killer whale.

90-day finding on the Petition to List the Main Hawaiian Islands Insular False Killer Whale:
On January 5, 2010, NOAA Fisheries announced in the Federal Register (75 FR 316) a finding that a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale as endangered presented substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.

Status Review of the Species:
NOAA Fisheries then initiated a status review of the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale to determine if listing under the ESA was warranted. In August 2010 the NOAA Fisheries false killer whale Biological Review Team completed the following status review report of the species:

12-month Finding/Proposed Listing Rule:
NOAA Fisheries completed a comprehensive status review of the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale under the ESA. After reviewing the best scientific and commercial information available, we determined that the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale is a distinct population segment (DPS) that qualifies as a species under the ESA. Moreover, after evaluating threats facing the DPS, and considering efforts being made to protect the Main Hawaiian Islands insular DPS, we determined that the DPS is declining and is in danger of extinction throughout its range. On November 17, 2010, we announced in the Federal Register that we proposed to list the DPS as endangered under the ESA.

Notice of Availability of New Information:
In light of newly available information, we reconvened the Biological Review Team and requested a reevaluation of the DPS determination. Additionally, we published a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register (75 FR 316) announcing the existence of this new information and opened a 15-day public comment period pertaining to the new information. 

Following review of the Biological Review Team’s reevaluation of the DPS designation and public comments, we concluded that the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale is still a DPS because it is both discrete and significant to the taxon. 

Main Hawaiian Islands Insular False Killer Whales DPS Listed as Endangered
On November 28, 2012, NOAA Fisheries published a final rule to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale as an endangered distinct population segment under the ESA. Note that the main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale is separate from both the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands false killer whale and the Hawaii pelagic false killer whale.

Critical Habitat

On November 3, NOAA Fisheries published a proposed rule (82 FR 51186) to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act for main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whales (MHI IFKWs) in waters from 45 meters to 3,200 meters (49 to 3,500 yards) in depth surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands (from Ni‘ihau to Hawai‘i Island). This designation would not include most bays, harbors, or coastal in-water structures. Within this larger proposed area, NOAA Fisheries is proposing to exclude nine areas from the designation due to economic and national security impacts. In addition, two areas are ineligible for designation because they are managed under the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam INRMP that was found to benefit MHI IFKWs. The total area proposed includes approximately 49,701 km² (19,184 mi²) of marine habitat.

Please submit public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal by January 2, 2018.

A public hearing will be held on December 7, 2017, 6:00 - 9 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural Center, Manoa Ballroom, 2454 S. Beretania St., 5th Floor.

For more information and supporting documents:

Maps of the proposed critical habitat designation:

Range of DPS

False Killer Whale Stock Boundaries

Range of Insular False Killer Whales

Range of Insular False Killer Whales

False Killer Whale Stock Boundaries with Longline Fisheries Overlaid

Range of Insular False Killer Whales

Range of Insular False Killer Whales