A whale of a time was had at the World Whale Day Festival in Maui this past February.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Hawaiian Island of Maui this winter. Friends of mine offered free accommodation – as long as I didn’t mind sleeping in the living room on a hide-a-bed. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
The nature of Maui is spectacular. While I was relaxing in the ocean, a huge green sea turtle swam by so close I could have touched it. On a later snorkeling expedition, I was awestruck when I noticed I was swimming right in the middle of a school of needlefish. And of course, hearing the whale songs while floating in that deep blue water just added to the ambiance.
On land, I went zip lining down the side of the mountain with a view of the ocean, went hiking up through a bamboo forest at the end of which there was a 400 foot waterfall (good thing the view was worth it because the hike just about did me in), and I took a drive up 10,000 feet to the top of the dormant volcano Haleakala.
Whale watching from a boat was the highlight of my trip. These huge mammals put on some pretty impressive shows.
A boat cannot approach a whale any closer than 100 yards. However, if the whale approaches the boat, the boat stops until the whale moves out of the 100 yard range.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to witness a mother humpback whale with her young calf swim right beside the boat. We were able to see their entire silhouette right underneath the water.
About 12,000 of the North Pacific humpback whales return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their babies, between December through May. It takes them about two months to travel back to the Gulf of Alaska, where they go to feed in the cold waters on a diet of krill, plankton and small fish.
On Feb. 13 we went to the World Whale Day festivities at Kalama Park in Kihei, Maui. There was music, Hawaiian crafts for sale, and most importantly information booths promoting the conservation and education efforts of local and global foundations.
Learning about the research and conservation efforts made me realize all the beauty I was able to enjoy should never be taken for granted. There are many people working hard to ensure native plants and ocean life are protected.
- The Pacific Whale Foundation played a role in stopping the Superferry (no longer in operation) from running between Oahu and Maui through the humpback whale mating and calving area. This 350 foot long four-story high catamaran could travel up to 45 mph, too fast for whales and other marine life to get out of the way. Speeds over 16 mph are likely to kill large whales.
- In 2011 Maui passed a law prohibiting retailers from issuing plastic bags. Pacific Whale Foundation supported this ban. The bags were being picked up from the landfill by trade winds and blowing them out into the ocean.
- Picture this – there are 4.5 trillion cigarette butts estimated to be littered around the world every year. They are the number one item littered on beaches, and pose a threat to marine wildlife. Pacific Whale Foundation supports awareness and prevention of this problem.
- From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) I learned about the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. In the 1800’s the seal numbers were reduced to almost extinction due to hunting.
- In recent years, NOAA Fisheries came up with a plan to help recover the population of monk seals. Some of the initiatives involve cleanups of marine debris, untangling seals from fishing gear, encouraging fisherman to use barb-less circle hooks, educating the public to refrain from feeding seals so they don’t associate humans with food, and conserving habitats.
- NOAA and the State of Hawaii manage the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii through education, research and resource management activities, including entanglement rescue efforts.
So why am I writing about conservation in Hawaii in a Manitoba community news forum? Because we are a part of the larger global community as well. We share many of the same environmental problems here in our own province.
Let’s not forget our own beloved beluga whales! There are concerns regarding increased commercial traffic in Hudson Bay, with longer shipping seasons due to disappearing sea ice.
I believe we need to play a part in protecting all environments – at home and abroad – so that future generations can continue to be awestruck by the beauty of nature and wonders of the animal kingdom, as I enjoyed in Hawaii, but also enjoy here at home.
2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. This year Earth Day Canada are promoting tree planting to help fight climate change. Check out #Rooting4Trees. At the global level, Earth Day organizations are campaigning to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide by 2020, of which Canada will be contributing 35 million trees.
I’m going to be thinking of those humpback whales, the bamboo forest, the breathtaking views of the ocean and the smell of the tropical forests this upcoming Earth Day Apr. 22. Also, I’ll be doing my very small part by picking up garbage around my workplace and buying more reusable bags to eliminate using plastic bags.
What will you be doing for Earth Day?