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Symposium to feature noted whale experts from around the world

By Staff | Feb 11, 2010

KAANAPALI — The first annual Watching Whales, Saving Whales Symposium will bring together some of the world’s leading whale experts, researchers and authors to discuss how to protect whales through the power of public awareness and scientific discovery.

Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) is the host of the symposium slated for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 13-14.

The event begins Saturday with a day of free presentations and talks at The Westin Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend one or all of the presentations. Admission is free, and parking will be available at Whalers Village’s pay-as-you-park lot.

From 8:45 a.m. through noon, the speakers will focus on “Saving Whales through Science.” In addition to individual presentations, there will be a panel discussion. After a short break for lunch, the presentations will begin at 1 p.m. focusing on “Conservation through Whalewatching,” which will also be followed by a panel discussion.

The day of learning about whales and conservation will continue into the

evening with a “Whale Shareathon” from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. At the event, the public is invited to share photos, video, music, art, poetry or stories about whales and whalewatching. There will also be a free environmental film festival from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Symposium speakers include Dr. Angelia Vanderlaan of St. Andrews Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Amy Venema, founding member of Keiki Kohola Project; Dr. Marsha Green, founder and president of the Ocean Mammal Institute; Professor Mark Orams of the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute and Auckland University of Technology; Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary; Dr. Cristina Castro, Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ecuador research director; Professor Michael Lück of the Auckland University of Technology and New Zealand Tourism Research Institute; Daniel Laggner, a researcher with Pacific Whale Foundation Maui; Joana Varawa-McIntyre, author of “Mind in the Waters” and “The Delicate Art of Whale Watching;” and Douglas Abrams, author of “The Eye of the Whale.”

There will be a keynote presentation by Dr. Vanderlaan during the morning session entitled “Determining Optimum Conservation Initiatives for the Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and The Efficacy of a Voluntary Area to Be Avoided by Vessels.” The afternoon keynote address will feature Dr. Mark Orams, who will speak on “Maximizing the Conservation Benefits of Commercial Whalewatching Activities: How Do We Do It?”

For a complete agenda, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org.

“This is a very special opportunity for anyone who is interested in whales to meet and learn from some of the world’s foremost experts on whales and whale protection,” said Greg Kaufman, founder and executive director of the nonprofit PWF. “This is a free event that’s not to be missed.”

From 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., select members of the public will be invited to take the stage to present whale-related photos, stories, poetry, video or music during the “Whale Shareathon.” Each presentation will be limited to six minutes. To sign up to present materials, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org.

At 6:30 p.m., PWF, in conjunction with Patagonia, will present the “Wild and Scenic Film Festival” — a free showing of short films relating to the outdoor world and environmental issues and ideas. Admission is free. The film festival will also feature door prizes by sponsors Clif Bars, Sierra Nevada, Tom’s of Maine, Patagonia, Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures, and Adventure Photos. The films will be shown in the Haleakala Ballroom at The Westin Maui.

On Sunday, the symposium continues with a day of field trips, including a “Whale Photo Safari” at sea, free workshop on watching whales from land, and a whalewatch with the symposium speakers.

During the “Whale Photo Safari,” participants will join PWF researcher Annie Macie and noted whale photographer Monica Sweet on a special cruise aboard the Ocean Explorer out of Lahaina Harbor from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Participants will get hands-on training with state-of-the-art digital cameras from Canon and receive a DVD of all images and video collected during the trip mailed to their homes. All who join this cruise are asked to bring their cameras.

The cost of the Safari is $99.95, which includes continental breakfast and drinks. Advanced reservations are required; visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org or call 249-8811, extension 1.

A workshop entitled “The Delicate Art of Watching Whales from Land,” a free event, will take place at Papawai Point scenic lookout on Route 30 from 9 to 10 a.m. The workshop will be led by Dr. Marsha Green, who has conducted numerous shore-based whale research studies in Hawaii and other parts of the world. Attendees will learn tips on

spotting whales from shore, as well as identifying whale behaviors and interpreting social interactions. Binoculars will be provided during the workshop; no reservations are required.

The final workshop of the series will be a “VIP Whalewatch” led by the whale experts from the symposium, along with Kaufman and PWF Research Director Dr. Kristen Jule, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the double-deck power catamaran Ocean Discovery from Lahaina Harbor. Participants on this two-hour eco-adventure cruise will enjoy free refreshments and a deli-style lunch and receive a free whale poster and color whalewatch guide. Whale sightings are guaranteed, or you will receive a “Just a Fluke” coupon to go again for free.

Early reservations are strongly encouraged for this one-of-a-kind whalewatch. The price is $49.95 for adults, $34.95 for children ages 7-12 and free for kids ages six and under.

The symposium is part of the Maui Whale Festival, a series of events from February through March 6 honoring Maui’s humpback whales. Visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org for details.