Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Stewards

Dedicated to inspiring future ocean stewards, Pacific Whale Foundation has been engaging the Hawaii community with our Keiki Whalewatch program for over 30 years now, encouraging local schoolchildren to learn about our oceans by getting a closer look at whales and other marine animals, each participating onboard our floating classroom vessels, as well as customized classroom lessons.

Education Manager Robyn Elrich heads up the program and says it is one of her favorite parts of the job. “The program provides an opportunity for students to get a face-to-fluke experience with humpback whales. For me, the program provides an opportunity to spend time with students and introduce them to the amazing creatures that spend the winter right here in our own backyard. I begin every program by asking the students this question: who has ever been on a boat to watch whales before? Their responses always remind me why we offer this program; for a majority of students, this is their first experience on a boat to watch whales. The students’ excitement and enthusiasm as they see their very first humpback whale up close is amazing! The experience gives students a new appreciation of humpback whales and ocean ecosystems. It is this awe and appreciation that inspires students to care for the ocean and begin to become ocean stewards.”

The Keiki Whalewatch also offers the option for students to learn about humpback whales through grade-level appropriate, hands-on classroom programs. Our 2019 Keiki Whalewatch season will also include some exciting new additions to our previously offered classroom programs. In 2019, our life-size inflatable humpback whale, Harry, generously donated by Deanna LaSusa-Hotchner of Discover the Depths, will make his debut in Maui schools. This life-size model of a humpback whale, complete with internal anatomy, will not only allow students to truly understand the size of a humpback whale, but also spend time inside a whale! Our neighbors at the Maui Ocean Center have almost completed their new humpback whale exhibit and 3D sphere theater, and have partnered with us to offer these experiences to Keiki Whalewatch program participants.

We offer the Keiki Whalewatch program at a heavily subsidized rate in order to enable access to all Maui County students. One generous PWF donor enabled us to bring the Keiki Whalewatch program to students on the islands of Molokai and Lana’i for the first time ever in January of 2018. We hope to sponsor this program again in 2019 with funds raised by our Online Auction. With over 100 items to choose from, many being donated by local companies, and bids starting well below the retail value, there is something for everyone.

Bidding is open November 10-19 at

All Things Are Possible!

Summer break may be finished, but Ocean Camp memories gust thicker than my Oklahoma accent. As I plug away behind my computer reconciling administrative tasks and reacquainting myself with current events, I can easily become discouraged with the empty nest syndrome of a quieter classroom and the multitude of unjust issues impacting our precious marine life. Yet every climb down the stairs in our office confronts me with the reason why I do what I do. Tacked on an otherwise barren, white wall is a sign that speaks volumes above the noisy staircase it decorates. The artistically rendered petition reads, “Save Lolita” referring to a captive orca. This project is a representation of the many efforts that result from our educational program Ocean Camp.

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Whale-sized Fun for Maui Children at Sea!

As a part of our education efforts, every whale season we host numerous school groups participating in our Keiki (Hawaiian for “children”) Whalewatch program. Last week we concluded this season’s program with 1,518 children now having more knowledge about humpback whales.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Keiki Whalewatch program is offered to create an impactful and interactive learning experience for our future generation. It is evident that many children who attend our program have yet to observe a humpback whale. After greeting the children, educators often ask the group, “who has never seen a whale?” Each time, several mini hands launch towards the sky in eager anticipation of the near adventure that will soon change that response. Designed so that children preschool through high school can experience these majestic animals in their natural habitat, Keiki Whalewatches allow children to connect with our marine environment, and for many, to see a whale for the very first time.

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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.

Wild About Whales!

group photo with whale fluke We ended June and entered July with our “Wild About Whales” week at Ocean Camp.  Although the fastest recorded migration for Hawaii’s humpback whales is 39 days, campers covered this approximate 3,000 mile journey in only four days! Participating in a variety of activities, campers explored humpback whale feeding and calving grounds and learned about the respective whale behaviors occurring in these locations such as bubble net feeding and nursing.

By understanding whale anatomy and research techniques, campers also learned how to identify individual whales from their fluke which is unique to each individual whale similar to how every human has a different fingerprint! We even experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of our research lab where we received tips from the experts while being surrounded by a collection of humpback whale data recorded over the last 30 years.

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“Go Wild!” The Paradoxical “Promotion” of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair

As SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary, Hawaii hosts its annual 50th State Fair. The theme—”Go Wild!”  The paradox—the display of captive animals, such as a sea lion performance, to “promote” this. The Paradoxical `Promotion’ of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair
Last week at Pacific Whale Foundation Discovery Center, we completed the first week of our yearly summer Ocean Camp where keiki (Hawaiian for “children”) ages 5-12 learned about pinnipeds. The program allowed campers to distinguish the difference between seals and sea lions as well as identify their various natural behaviors like molting and hauling-out. After these fun-filled educational experiences and reading about the sea lion performances advertised on the E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. website, campers were determined to make their voice heard on behalf of the creatures they very much came to respect and appreciate without viewing or participating in a sea lion show.  They eagerly wrote letters like the one below to express their concern.

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You, too, can join the plea of our future generation by directly expressing your concern about these marine mammals that were transported from Florida under the guise of education by E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. who “strive to provide exciting entertainment and attractions” and  Sea Lion Splash who are the only traveling sea lion exhibit in the United States. To use your voice:

Pacific Whale Foundation strives in mission to protect our oceans through science and advocacy.  We are an active participant in global efforts to address threats to whales and other marine life. We have been pioneers in non-invasive whale research and early leaders in educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about these marine mammals and the need for ocean conservation. We continue to do this through various integrated research, conservation and education programs such as Ocean Camp.