POSTED: Thursday, March 05, 2009

Maui whale sightings down sharply

A Maui-based group said its annual count of humpback whales is down 41 percent on Maui.

But Pacific Whale Foundation President Greg Kaufman said the decrease might not be related to an actual decrease in numbers visiting Maui waters.

Kaufman said visibility was poor in some places during the whale count, and he has noticed that the count tends to go up in even-numbered years.

He said a larger number of females could be breeding in even-numbered years, based on a two-year breeding cycle.

The 2009 Great Maui Whale Count recorded 1,010 sightings from 8:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. Saturday, compared with 1,726 sightings during the event in 2008.

Kaufman said the count also might not have taken place at the peak of whale migration season.


Panel approves taro-tampering bill

Changing the basic structure of the Hawaiian taro plant would become a crime under a compromise approved yesterday by a key legislative committee.

But some taro farmers said the ban on genetic modification of Hawaiian taro does not go far enough. Alterations of non-Hawaiian taro varieties would still be allowed in laboratory environments, which they say means the plant's seed could potentially escape and contaminate Hawaiian taro.

The House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed the bill yesterday, and it heads now to a vote before the full House.

This is the third straight year that lawmakers have tried to pass a law protecting Hawaiian taro, which is used to make the starchy food poi and is revered as an ancestor of the Hawaiian people.

During the nearly six-hour debate yesterday, researchers said science could shield taro from devastating diseases, while native Hawaiians sought to keep taro pure and safe from tampering.


Firefighter hailed for off-duty rescue

Maui firefighter Lawrence Crilley received recognition for his off-duty public service for saving a unconscious man who was floating in waters off Paia.

Crilley received the “;Guardian of Life”; Kahuola Award for going beyond the call of duty.

The man was floating offshore at Tavares Bay on April 27 when Crilley brought him ashore and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation until medics arrived.

Crilley has worked as a firefighter for 24 years, including nine with the Maui Fire Department and 15 in New York.

Crilley, stationed at the Kihei Fire Station, was nominated by fellow firefighter Capt. Michael MacDougall.


3 compete for top Chaminade post

Chaminade University has narrowed its search for a new president to three finalists, including the acting president, Brother Bernard Ploeger.

Ploeger, who came to Chaminade in 2001, also is its executive vice president and provost.

The other candidates are David House, who was president of St. Joseph's College of Maine from 1995 until 2007, and Gerard Voland, dean of the College of Engineering, Technology and Computer Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

The candidates will meet with students, staff, faculty and alumni next week on campus.

The university's Board of Regents hopes to finalize its choice before May.