Animation of one complete dive showing concurrent video footage, depth (middle figure), and pitch (bottom figure). The orange line across the pitch figure is our threshold for identifying search events for Hawaiian monk seals from Integrating multiple technologies to understand the foraging behaviour of Hawaiian monk seals

The objective of this research was to investigate and describe the foraging behaviour of monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. Specifically, our goal was to identify a metric to classify foraging behaviour from telemetry instruments. We deployed accelerometers, seal-mounted cameras and GPS tags on six monk seals during 2012–2014 on the islands of Molokai, Kauai and Oahu. We used pitch, calculated from the accelerometer, to identify search events and thus classify foraging dives. A search event and consequent ‘foraging dive’ occurred when the pitch was ≥70° at a depth ≤ −3 m. By integrating data from the accelerometers with video and GPS, we were able to ground-truth this classification method and identify environmental variables associated with each foraging dive. We used Bayesian logistic regression to identify the variables that influenced search events. Dive depth, body motion (mean overall dynamic body acceleration during the dive) and proximity to the sea floor were the best predictors of search events for these seals. Search events typically occurred on long, deep dives, with more time spent at the bottom (more than 50% bottom time). We can now identify where monk seals are foraging in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and what covariates influence foraging behaviour in this region. This increased understanding will inform management strategies and supplement outreach and recovery efforts.