There is a cheeky saying in the whale watching world that when it comes to the migration of North Pacific humpbacks, Alaska is the kitchen, Hawaii is the bedroom, and there is a really long 3,000 mile hallway that connects the two. As the Blue'Aina reef cleanup program moved into the month of April, we entered that spring-like time of year when the whales begin returning to the kitchen. Most, in fact, have already begun the northward migration back to the waters of Alaska, and those remaining in Hawaiian waters are females nursing their young.
Given the whale connection between Maui and Alaska, Trilogy was honored on our April 6 Blue'Aina to help raise funds for the Alaska Whale Foundation, an organization involved in research and conservation of our beloved North Pacific humpbacks.
Choosing to sail north towards Ka'anapali, we anchored in about 30 feet of water just south of Pu'u Keka'a. On our last sail to the Ka'anapali area, we were surprised that we didn't find that much debris considering the proximity of development. Much the same could be said for this sail, although a number of volunteers still returned with bags laden with some sort of debris. In addition to the hair ties, wax combs, and sunglasses, an intriguing find was a lone key accompanied by a Foodland Maika'i card. Unfortunately the bar code had been rubbed off the back, otherwise it would have been interesting to track down the owner and return the sunken key!
Food for this sail was generously provided by Maui Brewing Company, and we are excited to hear about the progress being made on the new location opening in Kihei. Maui Brewing Company has agreed to provide food for FOUR of our Blue'Aina sails this year, and we love being able to partner with another business that is committed towards island conservation.
In addition to the reef cleanup and the food from Maui Brewing Company, the folks from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary were able to get some sample readings of ocean water from various parts of the clean site. Once brought back to the boat, these samples are analyzed for characteristics such as salinity, pH balance, and turbidity, and these samples help to create an historical archive of the health of our island shorelines.
Speaking of historical archives, we continued to collect ocean samples which are being analyzed for microplastics as part of a collaboration with Algalita. Using a device dubbed the "manta trawl", this long net is dragged behind the boat for exactly 30 minutes, and a large filter on the end of the net is used to catch any debris.
While most of the debris collected in the filter is organic material (such as leaves), every sample has had pieces of plastics which are then analyzed at the lab. This is the first study of microplastics in nearshore Maui waters, and it's our hope that we can keep our oceans as clean in the future as they are today.
A big mahalo to Kenny and Fred Sharpe with the Alaska Whale Foundation for sharing their knowledge of our humpbacks, and another big mahalo to our dedicated volunteers who continue to make the program a success!