LAHAINA - Lahaina Cruise Company (LCC) has launched a new project to ensure that legitimate scientists receive the funds they need to conduct research to protect Hawaii's marine environment.
One-hundred percent of every dollar donated to the new Hawaii Ocean Project will support the work of Mark and Debbie Ferrari of The Center for Whale Studies, Dr. Dan R. Salden of the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation, Dr. Joseph Mobley of Marine Mammal Research Consultants Ltd. and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Dr. Robin W. Baird of the Cascadia Research Collective.
After 35 years of business in the tourism and boating industry, LCC Capt. David H. Jung decided to form this community-based division of the company.
Through Lahaina Cruise Company’s Hawaii Ocean Project, the public can support researchers studying endangered whales and Hawaiian green sea turtles aboard Kaulana and other vessels.
"We have an immediate need for our community to support legitimate and peer reviewed research on Hawaii's whales, dolphins and turtles," said Jung.
"We cannot let these recognized researchers go unfunded, as they will disappear. As an ocean-based community, we must have genuine scientific research to base our ocean management decisions on. Research based solely on fundraising and commercial profit-making cannot be relied upon for ocean management decisions."
Hawaii Ocean Project hosts whale watches and many other excursions aboard the Island Princess, Maui Princess, Molokai Princess and Kaulana.
Its mission is: "Educating visitors and our island community about Hawaii's marine life, ecosystem and endangered species while delivering a visually unique and memorable ocean excursion."
The project's "Research Direct" program will collect donations to support the scientists, including The Center for Whale Studies' work on factors impacting the survival of whales, Salden's study of whales' social interaction and Mobley's research on humpback whale behavior and the effects of underwater sound.
"In the span of over 30 years, Lahaina Cruise Company has had the privilege of working closely with - and contributing financially to - many local and Mainland researchers," the company noted in a press release.
"The Research Direct Program will promote voluntary contributions for genuine research projects. We aim at keeping the program simple and honest; therefore, 100 percent of all Hawaii Ocean Project funds collected will support genuine research. There will be no Hawaii Ocean Project director salaries or administrative fees, and 100 percent of all Hawaii Ocean Project gift shop profits will go directly to our research program."
Hawaii Ocean Project also plans to launch awareness and stewardship efforts in the future.
The goal is to gather a coalition of business members island-wide to spur contributions.
In return, the Hawaii Ocean Project will promote the members in its advertising and to passengers on excursions.
All of the money contributed goes directly to the researchers studying endangered whales and Hawaiian green sea turtles.
When scientists use LCC boats for research, the company covers 100 percent of the fuel and operations costs.
With an emphasis on education, LCC's onboard crew is staffed with naturalists. The company plans to feature renowned whale researchers this winter.
For more information, call 667-7006 or visit www.hawaiioceanproject.com.