First whales of winter season spotted

The first humpback whales of the winter season were sighted in Maui waters Friday evening and Saturday morning.

A juvenile male whale was sighted around 6 p.m. Friday a half-mile off Little Beach in Makena, according to Cary Shewmaker, captain of the Kai Kanani II, a catamaran sailboat.

Then, at 7:36 a.m. Saturday, the crew and passengers of the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Voyager spotted an adult humpback doing a fluke dive about 2 miles from Molokini heading north toward Maalaea Bay, according to an announcement from the foundation.

The two sightings would mark the first of the winter whale season in Maui County waters.

“I was the first to spot a single blow on our way out on the port side,” Ocean Voyager Capt. Gabriel Wilson reported. “I couldn’t believe it, so I headed in that direction.

“We got about 300 yards from the whale’s location and watched it blow a few times, and then do a fluke-up dive,” he said.

Crew members did not get any photos, but some passengers did, Wilson said.

Most first sightings have been in October in Maui County waters, the foundation reported. Although, since 1998, there was a reported sighting as early as Sept. 16 and one as late as Nov. 11, according to the foundation. The whales remain in Hawaiian waters until around May.

Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii from their northern summer feeding area that extends from Northern California to the Bering Sea. The whales migrate to Hawaii to mate, give birth and care for their young. At least 12,000 humpback whales are believed to migrate to Hawaii each winter.