Help Protect Maui’s Coral Reefs and Manta Rays

Maui truly is blessed in being surrounded by an underwater wonderland. In addition to hosting one of the largest concentrations of humpback whales during their birthing season in the world, we are also lucky to have the chance to see other graceful, unique denizens of the deep, such as monk seals, several species of sharks and even manta rays.

Picture donated by Blake Moore

Maui is one of a few places in the entire world with a resident population of manta rays. Olowalu Reef, off of West Maui, is home to an estimated 350 resident reef manta rays. In nearshore reef locations, manta rays congregate around “cleaning stations”, where Hawaiian cleaner wrasse eat parasites of  the skin of a manta ray. Manta rays are also thought to breed in the shallow coral reef habitat.

Unfortunately, both species of manta ray (Manta birostris and Manta alfredi) are currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Manta rays are hunted in some countries for their skin, their fins (for the shark fin soup trade) and for their gill rakers, which are used in some Chinese medicines. Since manta rays mature slowly and have few pups, they are especially susceptible to fishing pressures. Manta rays around Maui have also been spotted entangled in fishing line and some have even lost part of their fins due to this marine debris. Learn more from HAMER.

Continue reading

Ocean Spirit Voyage Update

Ocean Spirit made it through the Panama Canal successfully, current location is just north of Costa Rica (see map below) this GPS location was received early yesterday morning.

Crew member Christy Kozama shares with us her experience crossing the Panama Canal.

“We are in Playa Papagayo Marina, Costa Rica. We arrived at daybreak as the sun spilled over the verdant cliffs surrounding the marina. We are currently still sitting on the boat, 6 hours later, waiting for a custom’s officer to clear us into the country. We’ll only spend a day here, enough time to fill our tanks and barrels with diesel, our water tanks with water, wash our laundry, and make a quick shopping trip for fresh produce to last us to Cabo.

Continue reading

Pacific Whale Foundation Hosts Annual “Be Whale Aware” Lecture

Each winter, an estimated 10,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawai’i to mate and give birth.  In Hawai’i, humpback whales are engaged in important social and behavioral activities. Approaching whales  too close or fast may disrupt these behaviors and cause unnecessary stress to the animals.

In order to promote responsible whalewatching, Pacific Whale Foundation developed the “Be Whale Aware” guidelines. These guidelines build on current federal and state regulations, as well as scientific research.

Continue reading

FACT OF THE WEEK: Hawaii’s State Mammal is Critically Endangered

MORE ON THIS: To native Hawaiians, this furry creature may be referred to as ‘llioholoikauaua, but you personally know them as Hawaiian monk seals. These monk seals are endemic, meaning they are only found in Hawai‘i. They are one of the most endangered animals in the world, with their population of about 1,100 still declining.

These marine mammals are semiaquatic, spending most of their time at sea and some of their time on land.  “Hauling out” is a process where the seal goes onto the beaches to sleep, nurse, molt and rest. Here, a mother will nurse her pup for about 6 weeks and then the roughly 200-pound pup will have to fend for itself. An adult will grow from 6 to 7.5 feet in length and will weight between 375 to 600 pounds. They are generalist feeders, feeding on what is readily available, such as squid, eel, octopi, fish, and crustaceans.

Continue reading

2014 Australian whale season completed

While Halloween was celebrated in the Northern America, the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) research team stationed in Australia had their last day in the field in Eden, New South Wales. The day was made even more special by the presence of the replica of the HMS Endeavour, a British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771.

After spending 9 weeks in Hervey Bay, a reduced team (myself and Tizoc Garcia) drove the 1,700 km (1,055 miles) south to Eden for an additional 3 weeks to collect more data on the humpback whales as they migrate south to their Antarctic feeding grounds. It was with great pleasure that we met up again with the Cat Balou owners, Rosalind and Gordon Butt and their crew, who have been supporting the PWF research team for decades.

Continue reading

Ocean Spirit Underway

Ocean Spirit departed from St. Croixn USVI on November 5th and arrived Colon, Panama November 9th.

Eco Team member Sierra Frye-Keele writes: “After 96 hours of motoring (only 1.5 hours were spent with sails up due to light wind), we’ve made it to Panama! Ocean Spirit is a safe and sea worthy vessel, very comfortable for travel. We ate well, slept well, and encountered only one crazy lightning storm.”

“Seas were pretty calm the entire way, little to no wind, and a bit of rain here and there. It’s pouring now in Panama, and we have a few days to wait before our clearance to cross the Canal. We’re in a nice marina (Shelter Bay), with a pool, luke warm jacuzzi and showers, great restaurant, and spotty Internet access. All is well:) ”

We will be keeping track as they continue their journey crossing through the Panama Canal and up along the pacific coast off Mexico and then across a long stretch towards Hawaii.