Maui’s First Humpback Whale Sighting Reported off Molokini

October 25, 2015, 8:02 AM HST · Updated October 25, 8:02 AM
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First Maui whale sighting of 2013. File photo courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation.

First Maui whale sighting of 2013. File photo courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation.

Maui’s first humpback whale sighting was reported this weekend, just after 7 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, about two nautical miles north of Molokini Crater.

The Pacific Whale Foundation reports that the whale was spotted by Josh Wittmer, Senior Marine Naturalist for the PWF, and the crew of Maui Diamond Sea Sports.  Wittmer was working on the Maui Diamond vessel as a dive instructor at the time of the encounter.

The PWF reports that the sighting included a humpback whale calf that surfaced briefly before disappearing into greater depths.

The first humpback whale of the season was spotted by researchers aboard the NOAA ship Hiʻialakai off of Niʻihau on Sept. 29, 2015, marking an early start to the whale season in Hawaiʻi.  The sighting was reported as the crew traveled home from a mission at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

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Another sighting of an adult humpback whale was reported a few days later near the Pacific Missile Range Facility off the southwest coast of Kauaʻi by Captain Sterling Silva aboard the Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures.

Saturday’s appearance marks the first sighting in the waters off Maui’s shores, according to the PWF.

“It is rare to find a small calf or yearling alone, so this humpback whale was most likely accompanied by an adult nearby. This is a normal time to see the first whales arriving to Maui. More and more will arrive each day with the peak numbers appearing in late February or early March,” said Greg Kaufman, Founder and Executive Director of Pacific Whale Foundation in a PWF statement.

Most first sightings of the season in Maui take place in the month of October. Last year, the first humpback whale was spotted on October 14 by the crew of Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Quest vessel while returning from a Lānaʻi snorkel and dolphin Watch trip.

Humpback whales migrate to Hawai’i from their summer feeding area that extends from Northern California to the Bering Sea. They come to Maui’s warm, relatively shallow waters to mate, give birth, and care for their young.

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