As this ends our Humpback Season, I thought I should leave off with some good news. All the new calves we’ve seen this season bode well for the future of the Humpback population in the North Pacific. According to research results released in 2008 by SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific – a research project involving more than 400 researchers in 10 countries) there are probably somewhere between 18,000 – 20,000 Humpbacks living in the North Pacific, with the population wintering in Hawaii seeing a 5.5% – 6% annual rate of increase since the early 1990′s.
We feel really lucky that we’ve been able to get a glimpse of the lives of these Humpbacks this winter, and we appreciate everything you’ve done to help Big Island visitors and residents experience these special moments too.
We want to send a Mahalo out to each of you who have made this season possible, a Mahalo to those of you who sent emails with questions and words of encouragement about these reports, and a Mahalo to those of you who’ve shared photos, anecdotes and videos with us this year.
Though our season is officially over, no one has told that to the Humpbacks yet! And based on what’s happened the past few years, we expect we’ll be seeing sporadic sightings from our Snorkel and Sunset Cruises well into May.
Till next season, a hui ho!
Claire (and the Ocean Sports ‘Ohana)
We only got to operate 2 Whale Watches on Christmas Day, but they both were great trips! Our Breakfast with the Whales Cruise started off with a bang. We were about a mile or so offshore of the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort when we all got to see a very big whale breach about 100 yards off our bow! This whale was accompanying a pod of two other whales – Mom and Baby, The trio stayed with us for more than a half hour, and at one point, the escort surfaced very close to us. We also saw lots of good fluke dives from him. On our 10:00 Whale Watch from Kawaihae, we were accompanied by two whales who seemed pretty interested in what we were doing out there, since they stayed with us for over an hour. Our onboard naturalist, Adam, reports that one of these whales had a “mangled fluke” – the left side of his fluke had what appeared to be a healed-up injury from an entanglement at one point in his life. The old injury didn’t appear to be impairing his swimming – and we’ll definitely be on the look out to see if we can find him again.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day:One of the best ways whale watchers have to identify individual Humpbacks is by the unique markings on the ventral (underside) of their flukes (tails). Currently, the National Marine Mammal Laboratory based in Seattle maintains a data base containing more than 30,000 photos of the North Pacific Humpbacks flukes dating back to 1966, but other researchers, including those involved in the 3 season SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks) Project have also used these patterns to identify who’s who in the whale world, and estimate Humpback population levels.