Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) was founded by Greg Kaufman 40 years ago with the primary goal of saving humpback whales, which were dangerously close to extinction in 1980. Now, our mission is to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and inspire environmental stewardship. In our 40 years as an organization, we’re proud to have had many ocean conservation victories on behalf of the whales.
Greg Kaufman protesting in Washington D.C. in 1979 to Save Those Whales NOW!
A few highlights from years past of efforts we championed include leading a successful effort to ban whaling in the Kingdom of Tonga, initiating non-invasive humpback whale research in the South Pacific, starting the first humpback whale photo-identification project in Australia, stopping the operation of a high-speed ferry through calving grounds, banning plastic bags in Maui County, banning smoking and tobacco use at Maui County beaches and parks, banning the display of captive cetaceans in Maui County and stopping a dolphinarium in Ecuador, and designating the Hawai‘i population of false killer whales as endangered.
Since our founding in 1980, the North Pacific population has grown from an estimated 1,000 to over 21,000 individuals today! However, humpback whales are not “out of the woods” yet. Several populations of humpback whales are still on the endangered species list and still have many threats facing them. At the top of the food chain, whales have an important role in the overall health of the ocean. Though whale protections and public awareness of the inhumaneness of whaling have improved, unfortunately, 7 out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered or vulnerable, even after decades of protection. How can we, as individuals, help protect whales from some of the threats they face?
There are a lot of ways to make a difference for the whales, no matter where you live. Each time you take action to save the whales, document it and use the hashtag #PWFSaveTheWhales to show the world how YOU are standing up for the whales.
- Don’t delist! Keep Humpback Whales on the endangered species list. Although their numbers have greatly improved since our organization was established 40 years ago, they still have not reached 60% of pre-exploitation levels, as PWF brought up in our testimony.
- Leave the environment cleaner than you found it by participating in our Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring program. Marine debris (trash in the ocean) is now a major threat to whales and every other living organism. The data you submit helps us prevent marine debris at the source.
- Support the International Whaling Commission and the end of whaling in Japan, Norway and Iceland. From our early years, we have been involved in the IWC, sharing our research and making recommendations about sustainable whale watching and fully endorse the organization.
- Oppose cetacean captivity around the world. PWF successfully halted plans to build a dolphin exhibition facility and petitioned to ban captive marine mammals in Maui County in 2002 and in Ecuador in 2019. Congratulations to Archipelagos – Institute of Marine Conservation for winning the “Best Heroic Acts of Environmental Stewardship” award at our 4th annual World Whale Film Festival, February 2020 for their documentary film on the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary: Lipsi Island. Their work to rehabilitate and provide quality of life to formerly captive cetaceans gives hope to the thousands that currently remain in captivity and Pacific Whale Foundation supports this project whole-heartedly.
- Ship strikes are a major cause of whale fatalities. Do your best to buy local to avoid excessive shipping. NOAA has a variety of protocols in place to try to mitigate ship strikes on whales (spotlighting blue, fin, humpback and right whales), including tracking vessel strike occurrence through examinations by the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a network that PWF Research is proud to be a part of.
- Our research has found that reduced speed of whale watching boats lessens the risk of whale-vessel collisions, which is why we self-impose a speed limit of 12.5 knots during whale season. When driving near marine mammals, use a reduced speed and post a dedicated lookout. Learn more from our Be Whale Aware program and choose responsible ecotourism whenever you travel.
- Entanglement is a primary threat to cetaceans. Become familiar with entanglement and be prepared to report any you see to NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network, of which PWF is proud to be a part of.
- Cut the car: bikes, buses, skateboards, feet – use ‘em! Reduce your CO2 emissions, as they lead to ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures, impacting the smallest organisms of the ocean to the largest.
- PWF has been working to build a long-term data set of both the North and South Pacific humpback whales over the last 40 years to better understand population size, distribution and calving rates. Humpback whales have unique tail fluke patterns and dolphins have unique dorsal fins that help us identify the population like a human fingerprint! Citizen scientists can help by sharing their photos of dolphin dorsal fins and humpback whale flukes with our Research department.
- Buy sustainable seafood. Look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo on packaging to guide your purchases. Your choices will guide responsible fishing, making the oceans healthier and preventing bycatch of species like false killer whales.
- Whales need a safe home. Support the founding and enforcement of Marine Mammal Protected Areas worldwide. You can keep track of proposed National Marine Sanctuaries and comment at www.regulations.gov. Currently there are two proposed areas: Lake Ontario and Wisconsin-Lake Michigan.
- Support bans on trade in endangered species products and be sure to not purchase products made with endangered species.
- Make a pledge today to reduce your use of single-use plastics and find alternatives. The U.S. contributes an estimated 242 million pounds of plastic trash into the ocean every year, killing countless marine animals, from plankton to sea birds to dolphins and whales, who die each year from plastic pollution.
- Properly dispose of used fishing line at a designated recycling bin, your fishing supply store, or safely in the trash can. Lost or littered line kills or injures thousands of marine animals each year.
- Support our conservation programs, which align with our research and education priorities to promote a solution-based approach to critical issues, such as endangered species awareness; collecting, monitoring, and preventing marine debris; keeping our oceans clean and safe, and more.
- Set a good example as an ocean steward by respecting the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s approach limits – which is the law. Check out our wildlife viewing guidelines to find out how to safely view Maui’s various marine life.
- “Adopt” a whale with Pacific Whale Foundation. When you adopt a whale, dolphin, or false killer whale, you’ll learn about your special animal while supporting research, education and conservation programs that work to protect all marine animals and their ocean home and research quarterly updates.
- Education is how we influence the next generation of ocean advocates. Share what you’ve learned with the world!
- Consider enrolling your child in a program that inspires them to become environmental stewards, like our Ocean Camp.
- Check out “Dolphin SMART”, a program by NOAA that identifies responsible dolphin watching tours for you to choose from.
- All drains lead to the ocean. Use eco-friendly cleaning products. PWF has worked with the County of Maui to paint awareness messages at storm drains across the island.
- There is still much to learn about whales. Dedicated research studies are required to guide conservation. Donate to your favorite research organization to help them advance the body of knowledge. If you would like to contribute to PWF, we appreciate support of our non-invasive research efforts in any way that you see fit.
- Be part of the solution: Join a local environmental group and volunteer your time wherever you live. Explore our volunteer opportunities on Maui.
- Say NO to plastic bags: Plastic bags are particularly dangerous because of their resemblance to jellyfish and are estimated to kill over 100,000 birds, turtles and marine mammals each year. Try reusable bags instead.
- Look for natural fibers when purchasing clothing and linens, as synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon release plastic microfibers into the waterway when washed. These fibers are extremely dangerous to the organisms who make up the building blocks of the ocean food chain.
- Support legislation and renewable energy that weans our society off oil dependency. Besides adding to greenhouse emissions, oil and gas development produce noise and pollution that disturb whales and oil spills drastically affect marine mammal populations.
- Become a member of PWF and help our efforts to protect the ocean and its inhabitants through research, conservation, education, and advocacy. In addition, members benefit greatly on our eco-adventure cruises!
- If you see a false killer whale in Maui Nui, immediately contact PWF at (808) 990-5544. This is an endangered population we are currently researching in order to protect from extinction. Find out more about this species and how to identify them at pacificwhale.com/research/hawaii.
- If you see something, say something. Report violations of the 100-yard approach rule for humpback whales, or other human disturbance or harassment of marine life at 1-800-853-1964. To report any injured, entangled, stranded or distressed marine life or endangered Hawaiian monk seal, call 1-888-256-9840.
- Volunteer with us! Our volunteers are the heart of our organization and enable us to fulfill our mission. There are a number of ways you can help, including helping with community events and outreach, indoor office tasks, and assisting with Ocean Camp and Keiki Whalewatch.
- Use only reef-safe sunscreen, which is zinc-based. Sunscreens with the following chemicals are toxic to coral reefs and are not allowed to be used on our vessels: oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, avobenzine, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate.
- Watch films on marine research and conservation to get inspired by work to protect the ocean and learn how you can do your part for a number of different issues or projects. Many of these films can be found online for free. Also, part of our Plastic Pollution Solutions program, the film A Plastic Ocean can be found on Netflix.
- Join us for the annual Great Whale Count that takes place each whale season, which brings volunteers together to count whales from 12 Maui shoreline locations as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii. It is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects and helps us gather data about the humpback whales of Hawai‘i in order to better understand and protect them.
- RECYCLE plastic products whenever possible. Not all plastics are recyclable, so make sure to check what is accepted in your area. View Maui County recycling guidelines. Remember, REDUCE is the first step!
- Encourage your local restaurants and businesses to choose alternatives to plastic straws, cups, utensils, packaging etc. Through our Last Straw campaign, 29 local restaurants have committed to abandoning plastic straws.
- Start a letter writing campaign with your family and friends focused on one of the threats to whales, like climate change or plastic in the ocean.
- Talk to your child’s teachers about signing up for our Keiki Whalewatch program. It offers an opportunity for local schoolchildren to learn about and connect with the ocean by getting a closer look at the whales and other marine animals that live right here in their own backyard.
- Try to travel as sustainably as possible by generating as little waste as possible, eating locally sources foods, and choosing companies with a focus on sustainability. We are a proud member of the Hawaii Ecotourism Association and are a Certified Sustainable Tour Operator.
- Participate in our Hervey Bay swim-with-whales impact study and be a part of critical research to determine the impact of Australia’s new policy to allow swimming with whales.
- And finally, consider donating to PWF to fund Research, Education, and Conservation programs that directly impact the protection humpback whales and other marine animals.
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