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  • Photo Credit: Dolphin Days cover,

Norris 1991 – Dolphin Days: The Life and Times of the Spinner Dolphin

Norris first became involved with spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) in 1961 when he worked at Sea Life Park, first as a designer of the exhibit, and eventually as a scientific director. Research concerning the Hawaiian spinner dolphin began with Dr. Kenneth Norris in 1968 on the Big Island of Hawaii. There, Norris and researchers observed the characteristic spinning behavior, foraging patterns, and social interactions. They found that dolphins rest in coastal waters during daylight hours and forage at greater ocean depths at night, information invaluable to their conservation in the rise of Hawaiian ecotourism. 1979 to 1981 Norris and students worked under the “Hana Nai’a Project” in Kealakekua-bay, tracking dolphins and monitoring their behavior both above and below the water’s surface, as well as recording their vocalizations.

“Dolphin Days: The Life and Times of the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins”, which reads much like a m

emoir, describes Norris’ experiences conducting research in Hawaii. The book includes his experience at Sea Life Park and his involvment in the Hana Nai’a Project. Norris provides in depth physical as well as social characters of the spinner dolphin. Norris recounts his experience on the Alisa S. J. fishing vessel at the orders of the Marine Mammal Commission following Bill Perrin’s publication documenting the number of dolphin kills in fisheries around the world: 350,000 dolphins a year. The fishing vessels were asked to experiment with new methods of seining in an effort to lower the number of dolphin kills.

Although Norris’ work in and of itself is astounding, and the need to understand dolphin behavior in an effort to preserve them should be obvious, it is his style of writing that engages the average reader. Norris’ passion for these animals is evident in the ways he chooses to describe them. We begin to relate to the social structures and behaviors of the dolphins. Though Norris stresses that the importance of preserving a species should not stem from their likeness to us, it is a part of who we are and how we have developed a system of values. It is an important stepping-stone.

“The first evolutionary glimmerings of such a reasoning mind must have emerged long ago in animals very remote from us. If this is true, then we, and our remarkable minds, are not alone on earth, and our visions of speciality that have so easily allowed us to grind the natural world under our heels must, in time, fade. As such understanding spreads, perhaps some of our traditional arrogance about the other living things on our planet will go with it”  – Kenneth Norris – Dolphin Days: The Life and Times of the Spinner Dolphin


Kula Naia – Wild Dolphin Research Foundation Inc.” Kula Naia – Wild Dolphin Research Foundation Inc. Kula Nai’a Wild Dolphin Research Foundation Inc., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2012. <>.

Photo Credit: Dolphin Days Cover,

  1991  /  Information  /  Last Updated August 31, 2012 by Heather Heenehan  /