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First humpback of season spotted

This is a photo of the first humpback whale spotted in the 2020-21 season. The Trilogy catamaran was headed to Molokini when the whale was observed. Photo courtesy of Jason Moore Fine Art Photography

The Maui News

The first humpback whale of the 2020-21 season was spotted at 9:10 a.m. Thursday in the waters between Molokini and Maui, the Pacific Whale Foundation announced Monday.

Professional photographer Jason Moore of Jason Moore Fine Art Photography captured the first sighting of a humpback whale while on a Trilogy catamaran. 

“We were headed to Molokini when we saw it,” Moore said in the whale foundation news release. “I was stoked to see a whale so early in the season.”

Moore also is a vessels captain and research assistant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It’s always exciting to hear about the first whale sighting in Maui’s waters, and I’m happy to see them return,” said Pacific Whale Foundation Chief Scientist Jens Currie. “We will begin our data collection in December as part of our long-term monitoring efforts which date back to the 1980s.”

The research and observations are aimed at identifying threats and coming up with science-based recommendations, Currie said. The foundation collaborates with the University of Hawaii Marine Mammal Research Program and the UH-Hilo Marine Mammal Laboratory in looking to determine the energy it takes for the humpback whale migration between Alaska and Hawaii “and how this may be impacted by climate change and shifting prey,” he said.

The humpbacks migrate to the warmer and shallower waters of Maui County to mate and calve from November to April, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary website. So this year’s sighting is a little early.

The Pacific Whale Foundation and its PacWhale Eco-Adventures will be significantly increasing outgoing cruises and ecotours beginning next Monday from Maalaea and Lahaina Small Boat Harbors, the news release said. For more information or to book a trip, visit www.pacificwhale.org/cruises/maui-whalewatch/discounted-whalewatches.

* This story includes a correction from the original published on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.

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