Hilo, Hawaii – Video by David Corrigan
On Friday, the Keaukaha area of Hilo celebrated the opening of a new facility dedicated to the humane care and treatment of injured, sick, and out-of-habitat “cetaceans” – an order of marine mammals that includes dolphins, porpoises and whales. The Hawaii Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility (HCRF) is now the only such facility in Hawaii, and the Pacific region.
The blessing ceremony for the new facility, located at UH-Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, was attended by dozens of Federal, State, and local officials elected government officials joined representatives from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Keaukaha area school children, and the dedicated volunteers of the Hilo Marine Mammal Response Network. The traditional Hawaiian blessing was officiated by Kahu Leifi Ha’o, and a traditional Hawaiian Pāpahi Kanaloa/Mo Ka Piko Ceremony was officiated by both Roxane Kapuaimohalaikalani Stewart and Kumu Hula Manaiakalani Kalua.
HCRF Director Dr. Jason Turner, featured in the above video, thanked those in attendance for making the vision of the rehab facility a reality. UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng, NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Response Coordinator David Schofield, and Dr. Gregg Levine, the NOAA Contract Veterinarian, were all onhand to compliment the project.
The facility’s 25,000-gallon saltwater pool is authorized by NOAA Fisheries to house 18 species of whales and dolphins, up to 20 feet long. The facility will be able to accommodate 1-2 small whales or dolphins at a time. The facility also includes several trailers for an office, storage and a food prep kitchen.
The HCRF was developed with an initial $100,000 grant from NOAA Fisheries, but Turner says the cetacean facility will depend on volunteers and monetary donations for animal feed and care which run about $350 a day.
The HCRF and NOAA Fisheries will also work to educate and involve the local community in the protection and preservation of Hawaii’s marine mammals.
Turner says “it is critical that stranded dolphins and whales not be pushed back into the water – they strand for a reason, and experts need to be able to properly assess them if we are going to be able save them.”
Other partners in this project include UH-Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC), where the facility is housed, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Region, state of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), U.S. Coast Guard, Hawai‘i Pacific University, Dolphin Quest, and Cascadia Research Collective.
The Hawaii Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility (HCRF) was initiated in the fall of 2009 by Turner and Ms. Jennifer Turner, both of UH-Hilo. The project can accept tax-free donations as part of the University of Hawaii Foundation. For more information, visit the HCRF website at Dolphinrehab.org. The Hilo Marine Mammal Response Network was also initiated by Turner in 2006, and is sponsored by NOAA Fisheries and the division of aquatic resources.