Updated: September 27, 2022
The first humpback whale of the 2022 season was spotted in South Maui today, slightly ahead of schedule.
Zach Schilling tells Maui Now that he and Victor Carillo were fishing aboard their private boat when they saw a 30 foot humpback breaching about a mile off of Cove Park in Kīhei today, Sept. 14, at around 10 a.m.
According to Schilling, the whale breached about four to five times, and then just started swimming north and into the wind.
Schilling, who worked on a commercial snorkeling/whale watching boat for the past three seasons, said that although his video footage of the sighting is not the greatest, he said you can still tell it was a humpback.
In two short video clips, you can see an animal surface in one clip and breach in the other. The footage was reviewed, and the sighting was confirmed by Ed Lyman with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Patty Miller, Education Coordinator with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said they also received a call this morning from Andrew Scott of Wave Riders who said he saw it breach three times off of Kalama Beach Park in South Maui, but no images were provided.
The agency is tasked with reviewing video to be able to confirm that the sighting is indeed a humpback, and not a false killer whale; and multiple sightings do strengthen any evidence before confirmation is determined.
According to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, scientists estimate that as many as 12,000 humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds off Alaska to breed, calve, and nurse their young in the warm waters of Hawai‘i.
Humpback whale season in Hawai‘i typically runs from November through May, with the greatest abundance reported between January and March. Experts say whales may be encountered in small groups during other months.
This year’s first sighting is particularly early compared with previous years.
Previous whale sighting dates include the following:
- In 2019, the first sighting was on Oct. 9 in the ʻAuʻau Channel between Maui and Lānaʻi.
- In 2018, the first sighting by the Pacific Whale Foundation was was made during the PWF’s Molokini Wild Side Snorkel on Oct. 8 at 8:08 a.m.
- Dates of past first-whale sightings by the experts at Pacific Whale Foundation over the years are as follows: Oct. 8, 2018; Oct. 9, 2017; Oct. 20, 2016; Oct. 24, 2015; Oct. 14, 2014; Oct. 5, 2013; Oct. 15, 2012; Oct. 6, 2011; Oct. 20, 2010; Oct. 20, 2009; Oct. 8, 2008; Oct. 7, 2007; Oct. 11, 2006; Nov. 11, 2005; Oct. 23, 2004; Oct. 21, 2003; Nov. 3, 2002; Oct. 31, 2001; Sept. 16, 2000; Sept. 30, 1999; and Oct. 13, 1998.
Humpback whales are protected by federal and state regulations, which prohibit vessels and other water-users from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards by any means by sea or drone and closer than 1,000 feet by aircraft.
- Revised recommendations for best boating practices around whales were recently announced jointly by the sanctuary and the State of Hawaiʻi and can be found at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/boating-with-whales/
- Additional wildlife viewing guidelines, safety tips, and hotlines can be found at https://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/visit/recreation.html.
Numbers to call for entanglements and zone approach violations:
- To report an injured or entangled marine mammal the public can contact the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 1-888-256-9840
- To report a suspected approach zone violation, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.