First humpback whales of the season spotted off West Maui

Two humpback whales, an adult and sub-adult, were spotted off Kapalua on Tuesday morning, the first whales sighted for the 2017-18 whale season. Pacific Whale Foundation photo

The first whale sighting of the season was reported Tuesday morning off Kapalua by the Pacific Whale Foundation’s sailing catamaran Ocean Spirit.

“Our marine naturalist onboard, Dan Kraver, was talking to our guests about different types of fish found in Maui waters when I saw two huge blows right behind him,” said Capt. Alyssa Moser of the Ocean Spirit. “Another vessel called us for information about conditions at Honolua Bay, and we told them about the whale sightings so they could come and watch with us.”

The sighting of one adult and one sub-adult humpback near the Cliff House occurred at 9:32 a.m., the whale foundation said.

The location of the sighting was not far from the first whale sighting last year Oct. 20.

“The whales do not arrive in Maui all at once,” said Greg Kaufman, whale foundation founder and executive director. “Typically, the first to arrive are last year’s mothers with their yearling calves, and then juvenile whales of both sexes, followed by mature males and females.”

The whales will come in increasing numbers from now, peaking in February and March, the whale foundation said. The whales usually hang around until May, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. At least 12,000 humpback whales are believed to migrate to Hawaii each winter, with their rate increasing at 7 percent per year, the whale foundation said. They travel from their northern summer feeding area that extends from Northern California to the Bering Sea, arriving in Hawaii to mate, give birth and care for their young calves.

Humpback whales are protected by federal and state regulations that prohibit vessels and other water-users from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards, the whale foundation said.