West Maui will celebrate the annual migration of humpback whales to Hawaii waters at this weekend’s Lahaina Whale and Ocean Arts Festival.
The annual tribute to our favorite tail-slapping, 45-ton visitor is slated for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow and on Sun., March 11 in Lahaina’s historic Banyan Tree Park.
Artists will display marine-themed art for sale, and Hawaii musicians and hula groups will perform at the free event. The Maui Ocean Center’s mobile aquarium will be there, too. Also, whale researchers representing groups such as Whale Trust, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and Hawaii Ocean Project will be on hand to share whale-related facts, figures and assorted fish tales. In addition, kids may participate in an ocean art contest.
Scientists estimate that there are 20,000 humpbacks in the North Pacific. An estimated 12,000 of them swim to Hawaii's waters to mate and nurse their young, typically between September and March. Since 2006, an annual census count has tracked a steady rise in the humpback whale population visiting the in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, is one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats.
Hawaii is the only state in the nation where humpback whales mate, calve, and nurse their young. According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), humpbacks may swim to our mid-Pacific area because of warm waters, underwater visibility, variety of ocean depths, and an absence of natural predators. During their annual visit here, mothers can be spotted breaching alongside their calves and males can be seen competing with one another for females in head-to-head battles.
For additional information about the sanctuary, which is jointly managed by NOAA and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, click here.
The Lahaina Whale and Ocean Arts Festival is coordinated by Lahaina Town Action Committee, which produces several annual events in an effort to showcase the town’s history and cultural diversity. For more information about the two-day event, call 808-667-9193 or stop by the Lahaina Visitor Center in the Old Lahaina Courthouse in Banyan Tree Park, 648 Wharf St., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Photos: courtesy of NOAA/HIHWNMS: Fisheries Permit No. 782-171