Maui couple say they
spot early humpbacks

Three are spied from a condo's
lanai in waters off Kaanapali

LAHAINA >> Pacific Whale Foundation officials said the first humpback whales of the season have been seen by a Maui couple.

"It's a little bit earlier than normal," said foundation managing director Irene Bowie.

Bowie said foundation officials usually expect the first humpback whales toward the end of October.

Three humpback whales were swimming southeast in waters off Kaanapali about 7:30 a.m. yesterday morning, said Earl Smith, a resident of the Maui Kai Condominium Resort.

Smith, a former fisherman and a Maui resident for 34 years, said he and his wife, Maureen O'Hara, were on the lanai of their eighth-floor condominium when they saw the three humpbacks outside the reef about 500 yards from shore.

O'Hara said using her binoculars, she could see that two were closer together and the third was accompanying them.

"They would go deep, then they would come up," she said. "They actually looked like they were playing. It's always exciting for me to see them. I just love to watch them."

O'Hara said she's seen all kinds of whale behavior, including a birth and a whale mother reprimanding her child who had swum too far ahead of her.

"She slapped the water with her fin," O'Hara said.

She said the little whale turned around and swam next to her, and both of them swam away together.

On the list of federal endangered species, humpback whales in the North Pacific are rebounding from a low of between 1,200 and 1,400 in the 1960s to estimates as high as 10,000.

During the migration from Alaska to Hawaii waters, from Dec. 15 through May 15, no thrillcraft are allowed along the south and west Maui shoreline.

An adult female humpback can grow as big as a school bus and weigh more than 44 tons.


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