HONOLULU — Humpback whales have begun arriving in Hawaii waters for mating season.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that two whales were spotted Oct. 4 off Maui and two more were sighted last week.
The first whales were reported by crew from a sailing charter and from a Pacific Whale Foundation vessel.
Melissa Glennon, spokeswoman for Kai Kanani Sailing Charters, said one of the Oct. 4 sightings was of a young whale. She said crew members and passengers saw a couple of spouts from the mammal before it did a fluke-up dive, showing its tail before disappearing underwater.
“Just like that, it was gone,” Glennon said. “It is really exciting.”
Humpback whales spend summers feeding in Alaska. They mate and give birth off Hawaii.
The North Pacific population usually begins to arrive as early as September, although ocean tour operators last year spotted one Aug. 30 in Honokohau Harbor near Kona on Hawaii Island.
Peak humpback activity in Hawaii occurs between December and April.
The Pacific Whale Foundation estimates up to 12,000 humpback whales will winter in Hawaii waters. The foundation estimates the population is increasing by 5 to 7 percent each year.
“There are more whales coming to Maui each winter to mate, give birth and care for their young,” said Greg Kaufman, the foundation’s founder.
Kaufman said the foundation is trying to identify spots where vessels should especially keep an eye out for whales.
Boaters, swimmers and others are required to maintain a safe distance from whales, 100 yards on the water, according to federal regulations.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com