LAHAINA - Humpback whales coming off the endangered list? Killer whales tagged in Hawaii? Are whales more like humans than we had thought? Hear the latest news firsthand from world-renowned personalities in whale research at Whale Tales 2014 on Feb. 14-17.
The event is moving to a new location, The Maui Theatre in Old Lahaina Center, with free events for the public to learn about whales from top international scientists, photographers and conservationists.
Whale Tales is an annual educational fundraising event featuring presentations, receptions and whale watches. Presentations include some of the latest findings on social, behavioral and conservation topics related to whales and their natural environment.
Hear directly from the source on recent discoveries and view stunning underwater photography and video of whales in their natural environment. Join the experts on the water with the whales and feel the magic during the benefit whale watching cruises hosted throughout the weekend.
Highlights of Whale Tales 2014 include seven-time Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall showing excerpts and discussing their underwater IMAX movies; Ralph Lee Hopkins, director of photography for National Geographic /Lindblad Expeditions, sharing some of his greatest adventures; and National Geographic Photographer Flip Nicklin and Videographer Jason Sturgis
showing some of their favorite underwater footage of dancing humpbacks.
Dr. Phil Clapham, leader of the National Marine Mammal Lab's Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program, will discuss the success story of humpbacks coming back from the brink of extinction and the recent and controversial proposal to remove humpback whales from the endangered species list.
Hal Whitehead, one of the world's foremost experts on the social behavior and culture of whales, will speak about biologists' emerging understanding of whale culture. Are humans the only species to have important cultural constructs?
Robin Baird, leading researcher for Cascadia Research Collective, will report on his work on the biology and ecology of species of toothed whales in Hawaii. His recent research contributed to the listing of Hawaii's false killer whales on the endangered species list. In November 2013, his team was the first to identify and tag killer whales in Hawaii off of the Big Island.
And Jim Darling, a senior scientist who has been studying the ever-changing songs of humpbacks off Maui (and elsewhere around the world) since the 1970s, will discuss the evolution of whale songs across the Pacific Ocean.
"Whales bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to the economy in Hawaii alone each year," said Whale Trust Maui Executive Director Meagan Jones. "Whale Tales gives residents and visitors the unique opportunity to experience whales firsthand with the experts - the people that have dedicated their lives to studying them - and to give back in meaningful ways by supporting the research community to continue their important work."
Additional speakers for Whale Tales 2014 include Fred Sharpe of the Alaska Whale Foundation; Ed Lyman from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; Mark Ferrari of the Center for Whale Studies; marine life photographer Marty Wolff; and Dr. Rachel Cartwright of the Keiki Kohala Project.
Presentations are free and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday at The Maui Theatre in Lahaina. Benefit whale watches with the experts are held throughout the weekend, with morning whale watches daily and excursions all day on Monday, Feb. 17.
Whale Trust Maui is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to whale research and education. Funds raised at the Whale Tales event support the research efforts of Whale Trust Maui, Center for Whale Studies and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation on Maui. This annual event has raised over $250,000 for whale research on Maui since its debut in 2006.
Whale Tales 2014 sponsorship packages and VIP passes, which include premium seating and private reception tickets, can be purchased in advance at WhaleTrustMaui.org or by calling (808) 572-5700. You can also "like" Whale Trust Maui on Facebook for regular event updates.
For more information, visit www.WhaleTrustMaui.org.