Federal researchers returning from a 30-day expedition to study whales and dolphins around the Hawaiian Islands said Thursday they are looking for clues to help sustain healthy populations of the marine mammals.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists told reporters that gathering data on the animals is often difficult, especially around the windward coasts of the Hawaiian Islands.

The researchers worked from a large ship, instead of using their normally small survey boats, and explored the coasts of the main Hawaiian Islands where wind conditions and severe weather make it difficult to navigate and remain at sea for extended periods of time.

The team also used a hexacopter drone to photograph the whales and dolphins, something they have never done before in this region.

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