Two Maui vessels last week have reported seeing the mammals, the first two credible sightings this season, said Ed Lyman, the marine mammal response manager for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The Pacific Whale Foundation vessel Ocean Voyager reported seeing a humpback at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15, about four miles outside of Ma'alaea Harbor. The vessel was en route to Molokini when a naturalist and the captain saw a single whale that blew twice and then did a fluke-up dive, the foundation said.
Then on Tuesday, the captain, crew and passengers aboard one of Maui Adventure Cruises' vessels, Maui Nui Explorer, spotted a single juvenile humpback whale 2.7 miles off Lahaina at 7:38 a.m.
Capt. Becca Johnson, who volunteers for the Hawai'i Whale Research Foundation, estimated the whale to be around 30 feet long, and it appeared healthy, a release said.
The sightings are not the first in the state. On Aug. 31, a juvenile humpback whale was spotted north of Kailua-Kona on Hawai'i Island.
Humpback whale season in Hawai'i generally runs from November through May. As many as 12,000 of the whales winter each year in the waters off Hawai'i, where endangered humpback whales are protected.
Lyman said the timing of the first sightings in Maui waters is consistent with scientists' observations of early arrivals. Typically, juveniles show up earlier, he said.