MA’ALAEA, Maui, Hawaii – Wild Dolphin Days, an annual event celebrating the wild dolphins of Maui County, will be held on Saturday, August 11, and Sunday, August 12. The weekend will include a free Wild Dolphin Sand Sculpture Contest that’s open to the public, plus a free talk about dolphin research and a Wild Dolphin Photo Safari cruise with Pacific Whale Foundation’s researchers and wildlife photographer David Fleetham. The weekend is hosted by the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation.
“While Wild Dolphin Days is an annual event, this year is special, because it marks the 10th anniversary of the passage of a landmark Maui County law that banned the display of captive dolphins and whales,” said Greg Kaufman, Executive Director and Founder of Pacific Whale Foundation, “The bill was introduced and championed by then Maui County Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson Winer.”
“Pacific Whale Foundation supported the proposed law and helped to generate the groundswell of enthusiastic support from around the world, including Lauren Shuler-Donner and Richard Donner (producers of Free Willy) and country rock star Bonnie Raitt,” said Kaufman, “We were told that this bill generated more mail and petition signatures than any other measure before the Maui County Council.”
“The Maui County Council passed the measure unanimously in 2002, and as a result, dolphins and whales will always live free in Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i,” he noted.
Maui County was the 17th city or county in the United States to ban displays of captive cetaceans.
Pacific Whale Foundation has conducted wild dolphin research off the coasts of Maui and Lana’i since 1996, and has photoi-dentified dozens of individual dolphins.
“As part of Wild Dolphin Days, we will be encouraging the public to watch dolphins responsibly,” said Kaufman, “We’ll be sharing our ‘Be Dolphin Wise’ guidelines with the public and the boating community, to raise awareness about the need to protect these animals, especially when they come into bays to rest during the day.”
Sand Sculpture Contest: Open to All
The Wild Dolphin Sand Sculpture Contest on Saturday, August 11, is open to all ages and all levels of sand sculpting experience. There is no entry fee and no experience is needed. Participants are invited to work individually or as part of a family or group to create a sand sculpture in honor of wild dolphins.
All participants will receive a free dolphin poster and free dolphin guide. Some shovels and pails will be provided by Pacific Whale Foundation’s team during the contest, but all are urged to bring their own tools, if possible.
The contest begins at 9:00 am and continues to noon. Free registration takes place on the morning of the contest at the north end of Keawakapu Beach on the sand by Sarento’s Restaurant. Judging will take place from 11:30 am to noon.
The sculptures will be judged by local VIPs. During the judging, a Pacific Whale Foundation marine naturalist will offer a short talk on the beach about wild dolphins. Participants can also learn about dolphin photo ID, and view Pacific Whale Foundation’s catalog of individually identified spinner and bottlenose dolphins – and try a dorsal fin matching exercise.
The prize categories are:
* Best Overall Entry by a Family or Group
* Best Individual or Group Kids Entry (for kids 12 and under only)
* Most Realistic Dolphin
* Most Creative Entry
* Funniest Entry
The winner in the category of “Best Overall Entry by a Family or Group” will receive passes for a family of four for Pacific Whale Foundation’s Dolphin Watch Cruise, a four-hour adventure focused on watching the wild dolphins that inhabit Lana‘i’s surrounding coastal waters. Winners in other categories will receive dolphin-themed prizes from Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Stores.
Free Talk about Dolphins
A free talk about dolphins and dolphin research will follow during the evening on Saturday, August 12. It will take place from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Discovery Center. Pacific Whale Foundation’s dolphin research team will present a slide and video show and share the latest findings about the wild spinner, bottlenose, and spotted dolphins found within the waters of Maui County. Pacific Whale Foundation’s pioneering studies of wild dolphins in this area began in 1996, and have since expanded to include toothed whales as well as dolphins. Attendees will learn how dolphins and toothed whales are individually identified and how they rest, socialize, and feed. This talk is free and open to all. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Discovery Center is on the lower level of the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops complex.
Wild Dolphin Photo Safari
On Sunday, August 12, Pacific Whale Foundation will offer an exciting four-hour Wild Dolphin Photo Safari cruise led by researcher Betsy Davidson and noted wildlife photographer David Fleetham. This trip departs at 6:30 am from Lahaina Harbor on Pacific Whale Foundation’s state-of-the-art raft Ocean Freedom and visits areas off the coasts of Maui and/or Lana’i where wild dolphins are most likely to be found.
The trip, tailored for novice and experienced photographers, is a unique hands-on adventure that will help participants learn and practice expert techniques for photographing dolphins and other wildlife. Guests bring their own digital cameras and learn how to get the best results from whatever model they currently own. During this four hour cruise, participants will discover the most effective camera settings for our local conditions at sea. They will also learn about and have the opportunity to use proven digital photo techniques to maximize each opportunity presented by the dolphins that are encountered.
This cruise departs from Lahaina Harbor at 6:30 am. It takes place on Pacific Whale Foundation’s raft, Ocean Freedom, to offer fantastic water-level views of dolphins. Just launched in 2011, Ocean Freedom’s innovative design was created by the longtime Hawaiian mariners at Navatek, and incorporates special “no slamming” features for added stability and comfort.
For further information, visit www.pacificwhale.org .