Humpback Whale Sighting off Olowalu Thursday
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Copyright Pacific Whale Foundation, courtesy of Hannah Pittore

First Humpback Whale Sighting of 2016

A humpback whale sighting was recorded near sunset off Lahaina, Maui on Thursday evening (August 25, 2016) by PWF Eco-Adventures vessel Ocean Quest.

"The brief video captured is a humpback encrusted with whale lice," said Pacific Whale Foundation Founder Greg Kaufman. "The animal appears uninjured and not entangled. It could be sick, starving or suffering from an internal blunt trauma injury. Whale lice are naturally occurring on humpback whales but tend to proliferate when a whale becomes weak or sick. It's akin to death by a thousand bites. We are sending our research team out first thing in the morning to see if they can track the whale's whereabouts."

This would be the first sighting of a humpback whale off the coast of Maui this year, which is months ahead of when whales typically migrate from their northern summer feeding area to Hawaii so that they can mate, calve and raise their young. 

"I have studied humpback whales in Hawaii for nearly 40 years," said Kaufman. "To my recollection this is the earliest sighting of a humpback in Maui waters." Pacific Whale Foundation has tracked the first whale sighting since 1998. Previously, the earliest appearance recorded was on September 16 back in 2000. The majority of first sightings have taken place in October. 

"Migrating whales do not arrive all at once," said Kaufman. "They begin to appear off Maui's coasts in autumn, with their numbers increasing through November and December." At least 12,000 humpback whales are believed to migrate to Hawaii each winter, with their rate increasing at 7% per year. Humpback whales are protected by federal and state regulations which prohibit boaters and other water-users from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards. More information on responsible whalewatching is available through Pacific Whale Foundation's Be Whale Aware guidelines. 

Captain Carlos and the crew of Ocean Quest were concluding a sunset dinner cruise at the time of the sighting about .75 miles off the coast of Olowalu. "It blew, dived, then blew again," said the Captain. The animal was also sighted by fishermen in the area who added that the whale was being followed closely by tiger sharks, which is unconfirmed at this time. The Coast Guard has been alerted and is requesting all boaters and water-users to be on the lookout.  

Anyone sighting the whale is encouraged to call Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811 or 1-800-WHALE-11.

Media Contact:
Alison Stewart
Pacific Whale Foundation
(808) 283-9822

Copyright © 2016 Pacific Whale Foundation, All rights reserved.

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