×

Maui’s first humpback of season spotted in Auau Channel

PWF Ocean Camp participants aboard lucky morning cruise

The Maui News

Maui’s first humpback whale of the season was spotted Wednesday morning in the Auau Channel by a Pacific Whale Foundation boat carrying kids on an Ocean Camp excursion.

Chris Walsh, captain of the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Spirit, caught a glimpse of the whale at exactly 11 a.m., according to a news release.

“The kids were all screaming, ‘This is better than the county fair,’ ” Walsh said. “We went on to find spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins; it was a fun learning experience for the kids on board today.”

It’s the first reported humpback whale sighting in Maui this season, and the second in Hawaii, after the captains aboard the Holo Holo Charter’s Adventurer II reported a medium-sized humpback about a mile off Kee Beach on Kauai on Oct. 1.

Whale season in Hawaii typically runs from November to May, but it’s not uncommon for the first whales to be spotted earlier than that. Last year, Pacific Whale Foundation made its first sighting at 8:08 a.m. Oct. 8, 2018, during a Molokini Wild Side Snorkel.

The foundation’s earliest sighting over the past two decades was on Sept. 16, 2000. All of the foundation’s first sightings since 2006 have been in October.

“Seeing humpback whales for the first time is always a special event,” said Director of Commercial Operations Blake Moore. “Given that our young Ocean Campers were the first really embodies who we are as an organization; we are here to help develop the next generation of ocean stewards. We’re all very excited for them.”

At least 12,000 humpback whales are believed to migrate to Hawaii each winter, with their rate increasing at 7 percent per year, according to the foundation. 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, which prohibit vessels and other water users from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards.

PacWhale Eco-Adventures, the for-profit arm of the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, will officially kick off whale watching season Nov. 9 with “Welcome Home the Whales,” a specialty cruise out of Lahaina Small Boat Harbor featuring a blessing at sea. Members of the foundation’s research team also will be onboard to offer their whale expertise and expectations for the coming season.

For more information, visit pacificwhale.org.