#PWFSaveTheWhales: 35 Ways to Save the Whales on our 35th Anniversary

35 yearsThirty five years ago, Pacific Whale Foundation was founded with the primary goal of saving the humpback whales, which were dangerously close to extinction in 1980. Now, our mission is to protect our oceans through science and advocacy. In our 35 years as an organization, we’re proud to have had ocean conservation victories on behalf of the whales.

A few highlights from years past include stopping the operation of a high speed ferry through calving grounds, banning plastic bags in Maui County and banning smoking and tobacco use at Maui County beaches and parks, banning the display of captive cetaceans in Maui County, and helping to designate the false killer whale as an endangered species. Learn more here.

However, humpback whales are not “out of the woods” yet. Humpback whales are still on the endangered species list and still have many threats facing them. At the top of the food chain, whales have an important role in the overall health of the ocean. Though whale protections and public awareness of the inhumaneness of whaling have improved, unfortunately seven out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered or vulnerable, even after decades of protection.  What are threats to whales and how can we help save them?

There are a lot of ways to make a difference for the whales, no matter where you live. Each time you take action to save the whales, document it and use the hashtag #PWFSaveTheWhales to show the world how YOU are standing up for the whales.

  1. Don’t delist! Keep Humpback Whales on the endangered species list.
  2. Marine debris, trash in the ocean, is now a major threat to whales. Leave the ocean cleaner than you found it.
  3. Stop whaling in Japan, Norway and Iceland (where over 1000 whales a year are killed for commercial hunting in Iceland, including fin whales).
  4. Support the International Whaling Commission’s ban on Japan’s “scientific” whaling and support non-lethal whale research instead.
  5. Oppose cetacean captivity around the world. PWF successfully petitioned to ban captive marine mammals in Maui County in 2002.
  6. Ship strikes are major causes of whale fatalities. Do your best to buy local to avoid excessive shipping.
  7. Naval sonar testing is believed to be harmful to cetaceans, oppose testing in your region and learn more from Pelagos Institute.
  8. Report any stranded marine mammals with NOAA’s smartphone app.
  9. Entanglement is a primary threat to cetaceans. Learn more and help out NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network, of which PWF is proud to be a part.
  10. PWF has found that reduced speed of whale watching boats lessens the risk of whale-vessel collisions. Learn more from our Be Whale Aware program and choose responsible ecotourism whenever you travel.
  11. Wherever you live, do your part to reduce climate change and rising sea surface temperatures. Rising temperatures in the ocean change where whales’ feeding grounds occur.
  12. Become an armchair whale scientist. Support noninvasive whale research and participate in PWF’s citizen science fluke ID project. http://matchmywhale.org/
  13. Support marine education and do your part to share your knowledge about whale conservation.
  14. Removing dams is not only salmon friendly; it also helps increase fish food supply for orcas in the Pacific Northwest.
  15. Buy sustainable seafood. Your choices will guide responsible fishing and make the oceans healthier. Learn more from Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch.
  16. Whales need a safe home, support the founding and enforcement of Marine Mammal Protected Areas worldwide.
  17. Support bans on trade in endangered species products and be sure to not purchase products made with endangered species.
  18. Encourage the U.S. to uphold the ban on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission.
  19. Use less plastic in your everyday life: it accidentally ends up in whales’ bellies.
  20. Use monofilament recycling bins to dispose to used fishing line. Check out Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program here on Maui.
  21. Support our conservation efforts and learn more at http://www.pacificwhale.org/content/conservation-programs.
  22. Set a good example as an ocean steward by respecting the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s approach limits, which is the law.
  23. “Adopt” a whale with Pacific Whale Foundation.
  24. Education is how we influence the next generation of ocean advocates. Share what you’ve learned.
  25. Check out “Dolphin SMART”, a program by NOAA that identifies responsible dolphin watching tours.
  26. All drains lead to the ocean. Use eco-friendly cleaning products.
  27. Cut the car: Bikes, buses, skateboards, feet, use ‘em!
  28. Oil and gas development produce noise and pollution in the ocean that disturb whales, look into renewable energy options.
  29. Support our efforts in promoting responsible boating. Check out our Be Whale Aware program as a guide for responsible boating and navigation around large whales.
  30. We don’t know everything about whales yet. We need research that better identifies areas that are important in whales’ life history for better protection.
  31. Be part of the solution: Join a local environmental group and volunteer your time, wherever you live.
  32. Say “No” to plastic bags: Plastic bags are estimated to kill over 100,000 birds, turtles and marine mammals each year. Invest in reusable bags.
  33. Avoid products with contaminants such as PCBs, which are harmful to orcas and other marine mammals.
  34. Wean off our oil dependency- oil spills drastically affect marine mammal populations.
  35. Become a member of PWF and help our efforts in science and advocacy.

Connect with us!

Twitter: @PacificWhale

Instagram: PacificWhaleFoundation

Facebook: Pacific Whale Foundation

Mugged on the first Ultimate Whalewatch of 2015

On January 13th, the research team ran the first Ultimate Whalewatch cruise of the 2014/2015 whale season. Mother Nature was on our side that day, with perfect calm weather conditions.

Over the past week or so, the research team had been sighting more and more humpback whales in Ma’alaea Bay, including mother-calf pairs, so our 30 guests were in for a good whalewatch trip on Ocean Liberty.

As expected, a few whale pods were sighted a few minutes into the trip. At a later stage, we were even spoiled for choice, with whales left, right and center. Captain Curtis decided to follow one of the competition pods that displayed a lot of surface activity, very close to Ma’alaea Harbor and Sugar Beach. That decision paid off.

Over time, the number of escorts dwindled down from five to just two. At one point, one of the adults, presumed to be the female in the original pod, approached the vessel so close that, when it exhaled, the blow hit a few passengers. The whale then slowly swam under the vessel, giving everyone on board enough time to admire the sheer size of this animal. What a great photo opportunity that was.

In Hawai’i, any vessel must wait until a pod is further than 100 yards before being able to move. This particular individual approached the vessel several times, repeating the same behavior, to the delight of passengers and crew. This is called mugging. Although mugging tends to be observed more in Hervey Bay, Australia, than in Maui, this season it seems that more and more vessels are getting mugged by humpback whales. Being mugged by a whale was a new and unique experience for passengers and some members of the crew. For others, over 30 minutes was a new record. No one seemed to mind that we were running late to get back to the harbor.

Let’s hope that this incredible experience is a good omen for the rest of the whale season! If you are on Maui before mid-April, please come and join us on an Ultimate Whalewatch eco-cruise.

Sightings of baby spinner and spotted dolphins

Recently the research team set out towards the island of Lanaʻi to continue our odontocete and marine debris surveys. Around 9:30 am, we came across a pod of approximately 100 spinner dolphins, including five calves. Even better, two of the calves were neonates: newborn dolphins!

Neonates can be distinguished by their small size: only 75-80 centimeters long in spinner dolphins — about the length of a skateboard. They also have “fetal folds” on their sides. These vertical, lightly-colored “stripes” are the result of being folded up inside mom, and they fade with time as the calf grows.

After spending just under an hour with the spinner dolphin pod, we continued our survey and were rewarded again, this time with an active pod of approximately 45 pantropical spotted dolphins, including six calves.

Not only was it great to see so many calves in one day, but these sightings were also sources of valuable data. Photographs and behavioral data collected during the time we spent with these animals will help build our photo ID catalogs and further our understanding of the amazing dolphins living here.

Underwater Footage of Whales and Dolphins Interacting

If two animals share the same environment, then at some point they are likely to meet. In the wild these meetings are often between predator and prey; however, nature isn’t always so cruel. Some such encounters, referred to as “interspecies interactions,” can be playful or social, where neither individual is threatened.

The research team was recently lucky enough to observe two such interactions while surveying humpback whales off the leeward coast of Maui. The first was between pantropical spotted dolphins and humpback whales and the second between bottlenose dolphins and two humpback whales. Humpback whales and dolphins are more often observed in pods consisting of their own species; however interspecies interactions have been documented before. One notable example was in 2010 when researchers Deakos et al. observed bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales engaging in a “lift and slide” type of game off the coast of Kauai; which was such a significant behavior that their findings were later published as a scientific paper.

In the video captured by the research team, one of the two humpback whales is observed swimming with a group of bottlenose dolphins. Some explanations for this behavior could be:

  • Dolphins hunting fish that associate with the whale
  • Dolphins riding the pressure wave created by the whale swimming, similar to bow-riding
  • Dolphins bullying the whale
  • Play behavior, such as the whale attempting to coax a dolphin onto its head for another game of “lift and slide the dolphin”

The PWF Research Team is excited to be able to share this special encounter with you.

Deakos, Mark H., et al. “Two unusual interactions between a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hawaiian waters.” Aquatic Mammals 36.2 (2010): 121-128.

Visit our Four Free Whale Information Stations

During Maui’s whale season, from December 15th to April 15th, our trained Naturalists will be stationed at key points along Maui’s coast to help you locate and learn about whales from shore.

Visit all four whale information stations on Maui and receive a free prize when you bring your stamped “Trail of the Whale” certificate to our Ocean Store at 612 Front St. in Lahaina or our other Ocean Store in Ma’alaea Harbor. You can view our google map for the locations of our four information stations that make up the “Trail of the Whale.”

To get started, print out a copy of the certificate, or pick up your certificate at any point along the “Trail of the Whale” or from our Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Stores. Our whale info stations are free to the public and part of our yearly Maui Whale Festival activities.