Although the population of our gentle giants, the Humpback Whales, is increasing every year, they are still endangered and need our help! We are dedicated to protecting the Humpback Whales and a portion of your fare helps support the following services:

Every year a group of dedicated researchers applies to the federal and state government to get permits to study humpback whales. Because these animals are an endangered species and the majority of the research being done is in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, special permits are required if the researchers want to approach the animals inside of the designated 100-yard limit. All vessels including kayaks and stand up paddleboards, as well as swimmers and scuba divers, are not allowed to approach the whales inside of that 100-yard limit. Even with the permit, there are restrictions that must be followed. Each permit has its own list of restrictions based on the type of research being done and the question that is being asked. During the application process, the researchers must provide a summary of the research that is being conducted along with the specific question(s) and the methods that will be used to hopefully answer the question. All this is done to make sure that the whales are protected and that “legitimate” research is taking place in such a critical habitat as the nursery and mating grounds. After all of the fieldwork is done and the data is collected; the information must be sorted through and then submitted to a professional journal for publication. The journals use a peer review process to make sure that an objective, scientific and professional review is done before publication. This process can take a year or more before publication.
This is the best, and sometimes only, the way that the work that is being done on the water gets documented and the researchers can see if the data they are collecting is actually answering the question they have proposed. If they don’t take the time to sort through the data they are really just whale watching. These are the research organizations that were issued permits in 2012. A summary of their work and a link to their website as well as their most recent publications has been included.

University of Hawaii Hilo

University of Hawaii – Hilo

Principal Investigator: Adam Pack, Ph.D
Co-Investigator: Lou Herman, Andrea Bendlin, Aliza Milette, Jamie Gibbon, Joel Barkin

The Dolphin Institute will continue long-term population studies of humpbacks in the Eastern, Western and Central North Pacific Ocean. These studies include: 1) in air photo identification of individuals to determine individual life histories, social role, migration, habitat use, distribution, and reproductive status; 2) underwater videogrammetry to determine the sizes of animals in different social roles and the relationship of size to social role and derive sexual maturity estimations; 3) underwater videography to document behaviors and aid in sex determination; 4) passive accoustic recordings to determine song source levels and propagation characteristics; 5) crittercam studies of animals to help in understanding mating system; 6) skin biopsy sampling for sex determination and individual identification to supplement the crittercam information.

Recent Professional Publications:

Herman, L. M., Pack, A. A., Spitz, S. S, Herman, E. Y. K., Rose, K, Hakala, S., & Deakos, M. H. (2013). Humpback whale song: Who sings? Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

Pack, A. A., Herman, L. M., Spitz, S. S., Craig, A. S., Hakala, S., Deakos, M. H., Herman, E. Y. K., Millette, A. J., Carroll, E., Levitt, S., & Lowe, C. (2012). Size assortative pairing and discrimination of potential mates by humpback whales in the Hawaiian breeding grounds. Animal Behaviour, 84, 983-993. (full text PDF)

Herman, L. M., Pack, A. A., Rose, K., Craig, A., Herman, E. Y. K., Hakala, S., & Milette, A. (2011). Resightings of humpback whales in Hawaiian waters over spans of ten to 32 years: site fidelity, sex ratios, calving rates, female demographics, and the dynamics of social and behavioural roles of individuals. Marine Mammal Science, 27, 736-768. (full text PDF)

Green, S. R., Mercado III, E., Pack, A. A., & Herman, L. M. (2011). Recurring patterns in the songs of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Behavioural Processes, 86, 284-294. (full text PDF)

University of Hawaii – Hilo

Principal Investigator: Jason Turner, Ph.D.

The researchers from University of Hawaii in Hilo plan to conduct weekly survey cruises from January-April in waters surrounding Hilo Bay, Hawai’i. Survey information including group size estimation, number of calves, position, and direction of movement will be recorded for each group encountered. Photographs will be taken of both the ventral portion of the fluke and dorsal fin for all individuals. Digital photos will be analyzed and used to compare to 1) identified humpback whales from other locations in the Hawaiian Islands and 2) identified humpback whales from Bering Sea populations. Recordings will be analyzed with Jan Straley from UA-Sitka during her two-week stay in Hilo to work with UH Hilo marine mammal course.

Whale Trust

Whale Trust

Principal Investigator: Jim Darling
Co-Investigator: Karen Miller, Meagan Jones, Charles Nicklin, Elizabeth Mathews

The researchers of the West Coast Whale Research Foundation will continue long-term research on the function of the humpback whale song. This includes playback experiments by playing specific sounds to subject whales and monitoring the reaction. Previous research has also included female reproductive strategies and photo-identification.

Recent professional publications:

Darling, J.D., Jones, M.E., and Nicklin, C.F. Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) singers in Hawaii are attracted to playback of similar song. 2012. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 132 (5).

Jones, Meagan E. 2010. Female Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Reproductive Class and Male-Female Interactions during the Breeding Season. Antioch University, New England. 184 pp.
Darling, J.D., Jones, M.E., Nicklin, C.F. 2006. Humpback Whale Songs: Do they organize males on the breeding grounds? Behaviour, 143, 1051-1101.

Keiki Kohola Project

Keiki Kohola Project; California State University Channel Islands

Principal Investigator: Rachel Cartwright, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: Terence Mangold, Amy Venema, Blake Gillespie

The researchers of California State University, Channel Islands and The Keiki Kohola Project will continue their study of the behavior and dynamics of humpback whale female and calf pairs in the waters off of Maui. Currently, they are conducting transect surveys and focal follows of female-calf pairs, in order to determine how behavior and habitat use in female-calf pairs may be influenced by abiotic factors such as bathymetry, water quality, and levels of vessel traffic. They are also looking at behavior of yearlings and juvenile whales and aim to document changes in behavior before and after weaning.

Recent professional publications:

Cartwright, R., B. Gillespie, K. LaBonte, T. Mangold, A. Venema, K. Eden and M. Sullivan. 2012.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Habitat Selection in Female-Calf Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Pairs on the Hawaiian Breeding Grounds.
PLoS ONE: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038004
Cartwright, R. and M. Sullivan. 2009.
Associations with multiple male groups increase the energy expenditure of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) female and calf pairs on the breeding grounds. Behaviour 146, 1573-1600.

National Marine Sanctuaries

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Principal Investigator: Edward Lyman, Justin Viezbicke

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s research for this season will include full-body image collection for scar and health monitoring. The sanctuary will also continue to respond to entangled whales and examine mechanisms and sources of entanglement.

Recent professional publications:

Splash, which is an international cooperative research effort which took place across the entire North Pacific from 2004 to 2007.

Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium

Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium

Principal Investigator: Christine Gabriele
Co-Investigator: Susan Yin, Suzanne Rickards, Adam Frankel

The research of the Hawai’i Marine Mammal Consortium includes all cetaceans in Hawaiian waters. The primary research topics are: 1) humpback whale biology and behavioral ecology, 2) vocalizations and behavior of cetaceans, and 3) stock structure, demography, movement patterns and relative distribution of cetaceans in Hawaiian waters. The core methods for this work are visual observation, photo-identification, photogrammetry, biopsy and passive acoustics. The core study area is the leeward coast of the island of Hawai’i.

Recent professional publications:

2010 HMMC publishes a description of melon-headed whale sounds in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

2008 HMMC publishes a Marine Mammal Science article on theodolite height determination

Cascadia Research Collective

Cascadia Research Collective

Principal Investigator: Robin W. Baird, Ph.D.
Co- Investigator: Daniel Webster, Gregg Schorr

Cascadia’s research is not directly on humpback whales, but the organization has permission to approach whales if necessary during surveys of other dolphins and whales near the Hawaiian Islands. The research focuses on population structure and abundance of whales and dolphins, including examination of the diving behavior of beaked whales, which are known to strand during Navy sonar exercises throughout the world. Cascadia uses photo-identification, genetic sampling, satellite and radio-tagging and other methods to explore populations and movements of toothed whales and dolphins. Recently, much effort has been focused on false killer whales, which are being considered for listing as endangered near the Hawaiian Islands.

Recent professional publications:

Baird, R.W., E.M. Oleson, J. Barlow, A.D. Ligon, A.M. Gorgone, and S.D. Mahaffy. 2013. Evidence of an island-associated population of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Pacific Science, in press.

Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, J.M. Aschettino, G.S. Schorr and D.J. McSweeney. 2013. Odontocete cetaceans around the main Hawaiian Islands: habitat use and relative abundance from small-boat sighting surveys. Aquatic Mammals, in press.

The Center for Whale Studies

Center for Whale Studies

Principal Investigator: Mark Ferrari

Utilizing benign, non-lethal techniques, the Center for Whale Studies will continue its long-term study of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, that began in 1975, in the waters of Maui County to determine the vital parameters of this endangered population. Sex, relative age-class, and reproductive condition of individual whales will be determined and identified through surface and underwater photographs of their fluke pigmentation patterns and various morphological features, define life histories, document behavior, and record distribution. Resighting histories will be compiled for individuals seen over successive years. Reproductive histories and reproductive spans will be determined for known mothers. Calving intervals will be defined. The social roles and behavior of whales will be recorded through still imaging and digital video. Social sounds and songs of humpback whales will be acoustically recorded. Free-floating samples of sloughed whale skin will be collected for genetic analysis.

Recent professional publication:

Center for Whale Studies contributed to this paper but they have not authored a professional publication since to 1990.

Investigating the feasibility of using DNA from sloughed skin for individual identification and kinship analysis in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) S. P. Pierszalowski1,†, M. Ferrari2, D. Glockner-Ferrari2, S. Mizroch3, P. J. Clapham3, B. R. Dickerson3
Article first published online: 9 JUL 2012, Marine Mammal Science July 2013.

CETOS Research

CETOS Research

Principal Investigator: Ann Zoidis, M.S.
Co-Investigator: Andy Day, Tom Norris

The researchers of CETOS Research Collective plan to continue to conduct an underwater behavior and acoustic study of humpback whales. They will collect social sounds made between animals (particularly between mothers and calves and between adults) while recording behaviors at the same time. In addition, they will continue to assess behaviors that occur during social sound production and other activities and will investigate if there are certain group compositions, behaviors or configurations that result in social sound production. They also are assessing underwater activities of various different group compositions. Cetos recently received permission to tag humpbacks including calves and will pursue this new study.

Recent professional publications:

Hierarchical and rhythmic organization in the songs of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) – In Press, Bioacoustics, June 2012, Vol. 21, No. 2.141-156

Paper on underwater Hawaiian humpback whale calf behavior – submitted, Jan. 2013 (still in the profession review process)

Pacific Whale Foundation

Pacific Whale Foundation

Principal Investigator: Greg Kaufman & Emmanuelle Martinez

Whale strikes are a matter of concern in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Despite vessel strikes occurrences being closely monitored, few studies have addressed the question of how probable these strikes are under certain conditions and whether factors such as age class, sex and group composition might make certain individuals more susceptible to vessel strikes. Pacific Whale Foundation completed a preliminary modeling study addressing the issue of vessel strike using surprise encounters and near misses as proxies using platforms of opportunity (PoP) (here whale-watching vessels). Given that PoP tend to target areas with higher whale densities, models might introduce bias that is not associated with non-random transect survey lines. Standardized survey lines, using a randomized survey design, conducted from a research vessel will allow correcting previous models and, therefore, provide a more realistic probability of strike.

Recent professional publications:

2012: N. Tonachella, A. Nastasi, G. Kaufman, D. Maldini and R.W. Rankin. Predicting trends in humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) abundance using citizen science. Pacific Conservation Biology, 18: 297-309.

2011: P.H. Forestell, G.D. Kaufman and M. Chaloupka. Long-Term Trends in Abundance of Humpback Whales in Hervey Bay, Australia. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management (Special Issue 3.Humpback Whales: Status in the Southern Hemisphere).

Hawaii Whale Research Foundation

Hawaii Whale Research Foundation


One of the researchers that had been working in Maui waters for over 34 years passed away on July 18, 2012. Dr. Dan R Salden created the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation and dedicated his life to studying humpback whales. He was a part of the Lahaina community and will be missed by all.

Recent professional publications:

Salden with RW Baird et al. 2009. Population structure of island-associated dolphins: Evidence from photo-identification of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the main Hawaiian Islands. Marine Mammal Science 25(2) 251-274.

Salden with S. Mizroch et al. 2011. Long-term survival of humpback whales radio-tagged in Alaska from 1976 through 1978. Marine Mammal Science 27(1): 217-229.

Salden with Amy Kennedy and Phillip Clapham. 2012. First high to low latitude match of a North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica). Accepted by Marine Mammal Science.

Other marine related researchers dedicated to learning and protecting our ocean ecosystems.

The Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, Inc.

The Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, Inc.


(HAMER) is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation founded by Mark Deakos, and has been in operation since May 4, 2004

Our Mission is to conduct sound research to better understand the health and status of our marine resources and how better to preserve them. These findings are communicated to members of the community, empowering them with the knowledge to create effective policies, raise awareness, and ultimately change behavior to ensure our current and future generations prosper from the economic and social benefits provided by healthy and abundant marine resources. To learn more about our projects visit our website at

Hawaiian Name: Kuapio Kohola
Species Found in Maui: Humpback Whales
Habitat: Predominately reside in waters 600 feet
or less. They migrate from Alaska to the Hawaii
Island Chain and remain here from the months of
December to May.
Food: Small schooling fish like Herring in Alaska.
Fun Fact: They usually only travel 3-7mph, rarely
stopping and traveling as far as 3000 miles during

Hawaiian Name: Naia
Species Found in Maui: Spinner, Bottlenose, Spotted
Habitat: Offshore, sometimes nearshore in the island chain.
Food: Fish! Mainly deep water species.
Fun Fact:They love to play keep away with leaves.

Hawaiian Name: Honu
Species Found in Maui: Green Sea, Hawksbill Habitat: Sandy beaches, subtropical coastal waters. Food: Algae, jellyfish, mollusk & more!
Fun Fact: Their lifespan can reach over 80 years! And they can’t retract into their shells!

Hawaiian Name: Ko’a
Species Found in Maui: There are more than 70 species found in Hawaii.
Habitat: Starting at 150 feet, they are found where sunlight can reach them to survive and water is warm!
Food: Microscopic algae that live in their tissue provides food to the coral through photosynthesis. Fun Fact: Corals get their color from algae cells embedded in the animal’s transparent flesh.

Hawaiian Name: I’a
Species Found in Maui: More than 650 species in Hawaii!
Habitat: 20-200 feet, near reef!
Food: Plankton, other fish, algae and more! Fun Fact: Feeding fish is actually HARMFUL to fish species, encouraging some fish to be more aggressive and push other species out of reef area.

Hawaiian Name: Hailepo & Hahalua
Species Found in Maui: Spotted Eagle Ray & Manta Ray
Habitat: Sandy Ocean Floor, open ocean, and nearshore.
Food: Mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish
Fun Fact: Their wingspan can reach 30 feet and they can weigh up to 3000 lbs.

Hawaiian Name: He’e
Species Found in Maui: Brown & Red
Habitat: Hang out in caves and rock outcroppings along the reef
Food: Crustaceans and animals in shells.
Fun Fact: They can change the color and texture of their skin to match their surroundings.

Hawaiian Name: Mano
Species Found in Maui: Whitetip Reef, Blacktip Reef, Sandbar
Habitat: Deep reef, open ocean
Food: Fish! Mainly deep water species.
Fun Fact: Baby sharks are called pups and typical- ly born in litters of 2-3!

Giving the Ocean EARs

August 15th, 2017|0 Comments

EARs- aka Ecological Acoustic Recorders are new technology being used by researchers to monitor coral reef soundscapes among other purposes! According to NOAA, "The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, developed the EAR program for these purposes: Establish patterns of sound-producing organisms in nearshore waters Monitor sound-producing marine species and their patterns and activity levels. Establish long-term trends in acoustic activity of reef organisms (e.g., fishes and shrimps) and observe changes within seasons, temperature, currents, and tidal cycles, among other environmental influences Determine levels of human activity, like blast fishing and vessels, in remote locations and marine protected areas Develop ways to relate ambient sound to events like coral bleaching, storm damage, or disease outbreaks" Next week, Ultimate is working with Researchers Eden, Anke and Megan to refurbish EARs off West Maui by donating Ultimate's vessels as transport the researchers to where the EARs are located. These EARs are being use to monitor coral reef soundscapes, humpback and spinner dolphin habitat use. Maui Ocean Center will be hosting a Eden August 31st as she presents info and data about Maui's EARs.  Every ticket for Ultimate Whale Watch or Snorkel Trips supports [...]

Giving the Ocean EARs

August 15th, 2017|0 Comments

EARs- aka Ecological Acoustic Recorders are new technology being used by researchers to monitor coral reef soundscapes among other purposes! According to NOAA, "The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and the [...]

Dolphins, Whales and Research, OH MY!

June 21st, 2017|0 Comments

Yet to be published, Robin Baird, Research Biologist with Cascadia Research Collective and Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, has shared some current results of their work from a resent research project they partnered [...]


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