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Founder of Pacific Whale Foundation Undergoes Cancer Treatment

January 8, 2018, 10:11 AM HST · Updated January 8, 10:14 AM
Nikki Schenfeld · 9 Comments
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Greg Kaufman, founder of Pacific Whale Foundation. Courtesy photo.

The founder and executive director of the Pacific Whale Foundation, Greg Kaufman, recently underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment after being diagnosed with cancer, the foundation announced today.

“I’m feeling strong and very optimistic,” said Kaufman. “I’ve been traveling for the holidays, spending time with family, and now looking forward to another year of exciting developments at Pacific Whale Foundation.”

After developing a fascination with studying whales, Kaufman founded Pacific Whale Foundation in 1980 to save the animals from extinction. His efforts with the help of other activists and advocates around the world have been met with resounding success. The North Pacific population of humpback whale was recently unlisted from the endangered species list.

Kaufman and the organization say they are still going strong in the face of this health challenge with 2018 slated to be one of the most prolific years in its 38-year history.

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“Now we need to turn our attention to other marine animals that are fighting to survive and thrive in the wild,” said Kaufman. “That’s why we’re dedicating this year’s Maui Whale Festival to five cetaceans on the brink of extinction.”

Those at-risk species are the Maui Dolphin (New Zealand), Vaquita (Mexico), Arabian Sea Humpback Whale (Oman), Chilean Blue Whale, and Hawaiian False Killer Whale. The list reflects Kaufman’s role as an internationally recognized leader in marine conservation and ecotourism. He is an invited participant to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee and regularly advises governments and other authorities on how to develop and sustain responsible whale and dolphin watching programs. Undaunted by health concerns, Kaufman remains active in these advocacy efforts abroad and at home.

Expected highlights this year include the arrival of Ocean Guardian, the newest addition to the PacWhale fleet of ecotour vessels and the Maui Whale Festival in February with returning favorites like the Run & Walk for Whales on Feb. 10, World Whale Film Festival on Feb. 16, plus a host of new offerings including a Masquerade Gala at King Kamehameha Golf Club, scheduled for Feb. 17, and a free Harbor Party at the Māʻalaea Harbor Shops on Feb. 18.

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On Maui, major developments are also in the works for PWF’s research, education and conservation programs. Restoration activities will begin this year under the Paniaka Wetland Project, including protective fencing and clearing of non-native plants by PWF naturalists and volunteers. Also, the organization’s long-running Keiki Whalewatch program will be expanding its reach to all of Maui County in 2018.

“We’re excited to now offer this innovative educational program to our neighbor island schools on Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi,” said Youth Education Specialist, Robyn Ehrlich. “Our goal is to have every child in Maui county experience the wonders of watching whales in the wild.”

In Australia, PWF will be offering Ultimate Whalewatch ecotours from July through October in Hervey Bay. PWF researchers will also be launching a study of the region’s newly adopted “swim with whales” program, in addition to continuing their long-standing research projects on Australia’s humpback whales.

Guiding the organization’s growth and transitional efforts is Pacific Whale Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, Kristie Wrigglesworth, along with Board Chairperson, Paul Forestell. “I know that everyone at PWF and all our supporters around the world are giving their full support and well wishes to Greg,” said Forestell.

“No matter what changes or challenges we face, Pacific Whale Foundation will always work to protect our oceans and marine wildlife,” said Wrigglesworth. “And Greg will always be the vision behind Pacific Whale Foundation.”

To learn more about the organization, its mission and programs, click here.

Nikki Schenfeld
Nikki joined the Maui Now team in 2016 as a writer/reporter. Originally from Chicago, she has had internships with CBS2 Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago where she had the opportunity to interview some of Chicago's best athletes. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. She moved to Maui in 2013.

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