First Whales Sighted in Maui for the 2011/12 Season

First Whale of the Season. Photo Credit: Rich West & Pacific Whale Fondation

First Whale of the Season. Photo Credit: Rich West & Pacific Whale Fondation

A pair of humpback whales was sighted at 8:35 am on the morning of Thursday, October 6 about 2 miles off the eastern coast of Lana’i – the first reported humpback whale sighting of the season in Maui County.

The two whales were spotted by the raft, “Great White” who called over to the nearby Pacific Whale Foundation vessel Ocean Discovery to report the presence of the whales. Bryson Oliveira, Captain of Ocean Discovery, confirmed that the whales were humpback whales. He reported that the whales were observed about 400 yards from his vessel. The pod included one adult whale and one smaller whale, which Pacific Whale Foundation theorizes could be a yearling whale.

The crew of Ocean Discovery reported that the whales were somewhat elusive with long down times. The whales were swimming towards Ma’alaea.

Passenger Rich West of Snohomish, Washington provided the photos (shown here) of the larger whale.

This sighting was the first reported sighting for Maui County, but not the first sighting for the state of Hawai’i. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hawaii’s first sighting took place on Monday, September 26 off the coast of the Big Island. A boat captain witnessed two tail slaps from a humpback whale yearling in Honaunau Bay.

“We were jumping up and down when we heard the news,” said Merrill Kaufman, Chief Operations Officer at Pacific Whale Foundation. “It is always a cause for excitement when we discover the whales are back.”

Last year’s first sighting for the state and Maui County took place on October 20. The whale was a lone subadult humpback whale.

In 2009, the first sighting off Maui was also on October 20.

Pacific Whale Foundation has records dating back to 1998, which show that 9 of the 13 first reported sightings off Maui took place in October; the others were in late September or early November.

First Whale of the Season. Photo Credit: Rich West & Pacific Whale Fondation

First Whale of the Season. Photo Credit: Rich West & Pacific Whale Fondation

Here are the dates of the first reported Maui sightings:
October 20, 2010
October 20, 2009
October 8, 2008
October 7, 2007
October 11, 2006
November 11, 2005
October 23, 2004
October 21, 2003
November 3, 2002
October 31, 2001
September 16, 2000
September 30, 1999
October 13, 1998

Humpback whales migrate to Hawai’i from their northern summer feeding area that extends from Northern California to the Bering Sea. The whales migrate to Hawai’i to mate, give birth and care for their young. About 12,000 humpback whales are believed to migrate to Hawai’i each winter.

The whales don’t arrive all at once, but their numbers gradually increase. Pacific Whale Foundation marks the start of whalewatch season on Saturday, November 26, with its Welcome Home the Whales Celebration. At that point, Pacific Whale Foundation guarantees whale sightings on all of its whalewatch cruises, through mid-May.

Pacific Whale Foundation will begin whale search cruises in early November. Whale sightings are not guaranteed, but these two-hour cruises are educational and offer the perspective of viewing Maui from at-sea.

The presence of the whales will be celebrated during the Maui Whale Festival, which takes place from November 26 through May 15 and includes a fun run and walk for the whales, a paddling event, free talks, special cruises and the annual Parade of Whales and Whale Day celebration. To learn more, visit

To learn more about Hawaii’s humpback whales, download a PDF copy of Pacific Whale Foundation’s Hawai’i humpback whale guide at target=”_blank”>

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