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Season’s first humpback whales sighted off Maui

MA’LAEA, Maui, HI – The whales are back!

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MA’LAEA, Maui, HI – The whales are back! The first humpback whale sightings of the season off the coast of Maui took place this week on Tuesday, October 20, according to an article published in The Maui News.

The article reported several sightings off the coast of West Maui on Tuesday, October 20, including a pod that was thought to contain four whales, sighted from Kahana Ridge, and a breaching whale sighted off Honokowai.

“We’ve been eagerly anticipating the first sightings of the season,” said Greg Kaufman, president and founder of Pacific Whale Foundation. “We were estimating that it would be any day now, based on past history. Needless to say, we’re all thrilled. It’s always wonderful to have the whales arrive. We’ve missed them all summer.

“October sightings aren’t unusual or early – in fact, during the past four years, they have become the norm. We’ve had October sightings in 2008, 2007, and 2006. The season’s first sightings also occurred in October in 2004, 2003, 2001, and 1998.

“During the past decade, the first reported sightings have also taken place as late as November and as early as September. The first sighting of 2002 occurred on November 3. The first sighting of 2000 was on September 16, and the first sighting of 1999 was September 30.”

The humpback whales that come to Hawaii travel a distance of about 2,500 to 3,000 miles from their summer feeding areas near Alaska. While in Hawaii, the whales mate and give birth. The whales don’t arrive at once, but rather flow in and out of Hawaii’s waters throughout the winter, often with the greatest number of whale sightings during the months of February and March. A recent scientific paper published by Pacific Whale Foundation showed that a male humpback whale was sighted in both Hawaii and Mexico during the same winter season.

Hawaii is the nation’s primary mating and calving grounds for the endangered humpback whale. Hawaii is also home to the only National Marine Sanctuary dedicated to the endangered humpback whale, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The population of North Pacific humpback whales is thought to be increasing at a rate of 5 to 7 percent each year. Currently, the whales are listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act.

Pacific Whale Foundation typically records increased numbers of sightings through November. You can read Pacific Whale Foundation’s whale and dolphin sightings log at www.pacificwhale.org/sight/index.php .

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