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Watch: Humpbacks are back with whale breach off West Hawaiʻi coast

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Humpback whales have returned to Big Island waters a little earlier than usual this season.

On Wednesday morning, the crew and guests aboard a tour vessel for Body Glove headed out from Kailua Bay on a snorkeling trip when they spotted what appeared to be a juvenile male whale in Keauhou near the area of End of the World.

Dennis Fukushima, Body Glove’s naturalist, said the humpback was spotted at 8:45 a.m. The animal put on a show for the 84 onlookers as it breached. Deckhand Aubrey Hollandsworth captured the performance on video. First mate Cosmo Galashan got footage of the whale diving down.

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“It’s pretty rare to see the whales in early October,” Fukushima said. “Usually our first sightings are late October or early November.”

Fukushima said everyone was excited to see the whale jump: “It blew everyone away.”

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When he sees early whales, Fukushima said it’s usually moms with their yearlings.

Fukushima grew up in Hawai‘i watching the whales and said he can’t get enough of them.

“They always just take my breath away,” he said. “Two months into summer I can’t wait for the whales’ return.”

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The first humpback whale sighting of the 2022-23 season was spotted in South Maui on Sept. 14 by a fisherman.

According to the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, scientists estimate that as many as 12,000 humpback whales migrate from their feeding grounds off Alaska to breed, calve and nurse their young in the warm waters of Hawai‘i.

Humpback whale season in Hawai‘i typically runs from November through May, with the greatest abundance reported between January and March. Experts say whales may be encountered in small groups during other months.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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