World Whale Film Festival 2020

The 4th annual World Whale Film Festival is here! This event has proven to be a lasting and powerful addition to our Maui Whale Festival. The Film Festival promotes visual storytellers who are passionate about our oceans and tell powerful stories about ocean and wildlife conservation at home and around the world. Tickets are only $10 ($20 VIP) and all proceeds benefit Pacific Whale Foundation’s mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and inspire environmental stewardship. Before the films begin, browse our interactive, educational booths and grab dinner at 808 on Main, Umi sushi restaurant, or one of the local food trucks that will be there.

We are thrilled to have Wailuku-born Kaimana Brummel as our emcee for the event!

I am honored to emcee the Pacific Whale Foundation’s 40th anniversary World Whale Film Festival,” shares Kaimana, “Growing up on Maui, I have always been connected to the ocean and the life within it. My first name means “the spirit of the ocean is calm” and like many of PWF’s supporters and staff, the ocean is where I feel most at home. Of course, we want to protect the things we love and that is why I have been involved with PWF since interning with the organization when I was in middle school. As a native Hawaiian my reverence for koholā is in my DNA and I believe we have a kuleana to protect and mālama the koholā as they are the kinolau (physical form) of Kanaloa, god of the ocean.
Gathering in person really matters. Coming together for a specific reason—in this case, to experience these films together, helps us to feel more connected and inspired. Taking in these films in a group allows for the exchange of information and ideas before and after the films. Plus it’s more fun! We will remember seeing koholā on a big screen, hearing their deep voices in a way that sends sounds waves through our bodies. You can’t get that experience through a video posted online.

We have a stellar lineup this year, including a very special premiere.

Two years ago, Pacific Whale Foundation’s founder Greg Kaufman passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. ‘A Voice for Whales’ was created to tell the story of his fight to save humpback whales from extinction by educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about whales and their ocean habitat. A film created over the course of two years by Greg’s wife, PWF team member, and acclaimed photojournalist Selket Kaufman, the 20-minute piece tells a story of hope and of “standing up for what you believe in, no matter the odds,” according to the filmmaker, who traveled to Tonga, Slovenia, Australia and the continental U.S. to interview, friends, colleagues and people who knew him best to help tell his story.

Complete Film Lineup

The Beauty

Pascal Schelbli

What if nature could solve the problem created by humanity by integrating plastic into sea life? Take a deep breath and dive into a world where we encounter bizarre creatures and discover eerily beautiful landscapes in the depths of the ocean. This film offers a unique and imaginative perspective on the plastic pollution crisis that the ocean faces.   

Abrolhos Sea of the Whales


Daniel and Marina are Brazilian biologists who ended up in the Abrolhos Region of Brazil to study humpback whales and, as a result of their desire for sharing this passion through powerful images, ECO360 was born. This film is about the heroic recovery of breeding stock A, which was severely depleted by commercial whaling and has now become a symbol for the entire region, attracting thousands of visitors to appreciate the natural beauty of the area.   

Reef Revolution

Rebecca Pratt

An undocumented reef, 11km offshore of New Zealand, has captured the curiosity and passion of a dedicated team and their local community. Follow in this sentimental journey, as the younger generation join ‘Project Reef Life’ team members in their journey of ocean discovery, and in turn surprise an older generation about life under their local ocean. 

Fragments of Hope  

Andrew Raak    

With over 20 years of scuba diving experience, PacWhale Eco-Adventures captain Andrew Raak has seen changes in the world’s ocean with his own eyes. His first experience on a tropical coral reef was on the island of Roatan, Honduras at age 12. Now, he revisits the same island as an adult, to document the steps involved in coral restoration. A process that is giving some people hope to save reefs under threat from environmental pressures.   

Patagonia Projects: Whale Conservation

Patagonia Projects was founded by Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth, two sailing explorers who in 2012 decided to offer their boat Saoirse as a full-time platform for conservation science. They have developed a network of scientists, institutions, funders and local stakeholders, and are tackling major whale conservation issues in Patagonia.   

How a Song Saved a Species

Rémi Cans 

By the 1960’s, commercial whale hunting caused the whale population to drop by an estimated 90% from what it used to be in the 19th century. The discovery of communication through complex song by Roger Payne and his team help show the world that whales are intelligent animals who play a crucial role in maintaining ocean health, contributing a to a creation of a global movement which eventually led to a moratorium on commercial whaling.   

Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary Lipsi Island   

Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation & Clawed Hat Films  

Follow the journey of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary as they aim to be the first refuge in the world to provide a solution for the retirement of formerly captive dolphins and home to others who cannot be released back to the wild.  

Dolphin Sanctuaries: A Future for Dolphins in Public Display Facilities

Sanctuary Education Advisory Specialists (SEAS)  

This film documents the efforts of SEAS to assist the Sanctuary in its goal by facilitating the co-operation between commercial captive facilities, rescue organizations, the public, corporate partners and rehabilitation facilities prioritizing the best welfare outcome for the animal. 

Bring Your Own

Maui Huliau Foundation youth

Maui Huliau Foundation has empowered the next generation to create this film, a student-written musical parody set to the popular OMI song Cheerleader. The goal is to highlight the importance of “bringing your own” in the fight against plastic pollution.   

See you Friday, Feb 14 at Iao Theater at 7pm for an inspiring evening. Reserve your tickets today at

Maui Whale Festival is fun for the entire family!

Each year since 1980, Pacific Whale Foundation puts on the Maui Whale Festival, a series of events throughout the month of February to celebrate and educate about the marine animal they have been working for the past 40 years to protect – the humpback whale. There are plenty of fun and educational activities for you and your keiki to enjoy!  

Run & Walk for Whales 

Feb 1, 7am-11am 

This a great physical activity that the entire family can participate in, including babes in strollers! Choose between several mostly level, easy-to-follow courses with beautiful scenic views of both the ocean and mountains – 1 mile, 5K, 10K, or 10 mile. Post-race activities include awards, music by Marty Dread, and a discounted whalewatch. 

Whale Day and Parade of Whales 

Feb 8, 9am-3pm 

This year, PWF has partnered with Whale Trust, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Division of Aquatic Resources, DLNR to bring back the famous Whale Day and Parade! You and your keiki can watch the parade as it travels from Kamaole 1 to Kalama, where the free Whale Day activities will be taking place, beginning at 10am. Explore Hawaiian culture with hula performances from halaus across Maui Nui, visit local non-profits and play games that teach about their organization’s work, enjoy a performance by the Banana Slug String Band, race your whale in the Wild & Wonderful Whale Regatta for prizes, and, in the keiki zone, find more games related to science and marine life, a DJ with interactive games, bubble machine, and hula lessons! 

Keiki Concert Cruises 

Feb 9 & 15 

Keiki cruise for free with an adult (1 FREE keiki with every paying adult) on these special concert cruises, featuring the Banana Slug String Band Sunday, February 9 and Uncle Wayne & The Howling Dog Band Saturday, February 15. Let your keiki rock out to music created just for them! 

Maui Whale Festival Library Performance with Uncle Wayne & The Howling Dog Band 

Feb 14, 10:30am

Can’t make either of the Keiki Concert Cruises? Enjoy a special performance at the Kihei Public Library by Uncle Wayne and the Howling Dog Band free of charge!

World Whale Film Festival 

Feb 14, 7pm-10pm 

Your high schooler might just be inspired by a night out filled with powerful films about ocean and wildlife conservation around the world, with one submission made by students their own age. Grab some delicious food from one of our invited vendors and make this a dinner and a show you won’t soon forget.   

Great Whale Count  

Jan 25, Feb 29, & March 28, 8am-12pm 

Encourage your child (middle schooler and up recommended) to participate in scientific research as a citizen scientist. Volunteers count whales at 12 survey sites along the shoreline of Maui as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii that provides the PWF Research department with a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales. 

For a full listing of our Maui Whale Festival events, visit

Welcome to a Reimagined Whale Day in 2020!

Whale Day has been one of the most popular Maui community events, dating back to 1980, and is always a special occasion, but this year’s Whale Day celebration is special for a few reasons.  

Whale Day began as a way for the founder of Pacific Whale Foundation, Greg Kaufman, to raise awareness about humpback whales and the threat of extinction. It was originally celebrated in late April on Earth Day in a parking lot in central Kīhei and grew from 2,000 participants by its 10th year to 20,000 in its 37th, eventually requiring all of Kalama Park.

Whale Day had grown to become one of Maui’s most popular events but it had also become an incredible demand on our organization’s time and resources. The 2018 loss of the PWF founder and executive director of 38 years created a sea of change within Pacific Whale Foundation; one outcome of which was the development of a strategic plan that transformed the signature World Whale Day into a series of events, Maui Whale Festival, in order to expand reach, impact and relevance to our mission. 

This year, we decided to reimagine the beloved event for our 40th anniversary, largely thanks to grants from Maui County Office of Economic Development, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, and Atherton Family Foundation. We are also happy to have the opportunity to partner with other whale advocate organizations to make this special celebration possible. 

Whale Trust is a nonprofit organization founded by Meagan Jones, Flip Nicklin and Jim Darling in 2001 to promote, support, and conduct scientific research on whales and the marine environment. 

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiʻi and is jointly managed via a cooperative federal-state partnership between the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaiʻi through the Department of Land and Natural Resources. 

The mission of the Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources is to work with the people of Hawai‘i to manage, conserve and restore the state’s unique aquatic resources and ecosystems for present and future generations. 

We have been working together for the past seven months now to ensure that we put on a great community event while making our missions, Hawaiian heritage, culture and knowledge, and the Maui community at large a central focus for participants. That is why you will find expert speakers, interactive displays and games about marine research and conservation, hula performances, a keiki zone, Made on Maui arts and crafts, and local food vendors throughout Kalama park – representing our and our partners work and the community of Maui. 

The Parade of Whales starts at 9am from Kamaole 1 to Kalama Park, where the day’s festivities will take place from 10am-3pm.We can’t wait to see you there for one of Maui’s biggest community events! 

Mahalo to our other Whale Day sponsors:

WastePro Hawaii, Menehune Water, Goodfellow Bros, Your Mix Maui, Kihei Ice, Service Rentals, Census Bureau, and PacWhale Eco-Adventures!

Visit for more information on this and other festival events.

Embrace the Rains of Maui

Guest post by international award-winning astronomy writer and speaker Harriet Witt, your guide to the stars onboard our Sunset & Celestial Cruise.

Featured image from Selket Kaufman

Psst! You… yeah you… are a passenger on a planet… on a blue-green planet… that’s orbiting a golden star. Our planet is tilted over as it travels around the sun, so we have seasons. And now, we’re in the season of the ho’o ilo–Hawai‘i’s rainy time. In the Hawaiian language, there are 138 words for different kinds of rain. There’s ua – rain in general. There’s ua li’i li’i – drizzling rain. There’s lele ua – windblown rain. And then there are ho’o loku loku, ha’a loku loku and ku noku noku, which, as you can hear, are pounding, deafening downpours.

You can survive without food for weeks, but if you have no water, you’re a goner much sooner.

“By water all things find life”

says the native Hawaiian wisdom that we hear on the radio and see on our water bills. Yes, water washes away our dirt, it cleanses our wounds, and it also washes away our troubles. If you say the Hawaiian word for water twice you’re saying wealth. Wai is water. Wai wai is wealth. If all of us on this planet defined wealth this way, then future generations of us might still be here.

As special as water is, it’s not unique to Earth. Saturn’s rings are zillions of frozen water droplets sparkling in the sunlight. The Orion Nebula, which you can see in the constellation of Orion, is generating water at a rate fast enough to re-fill all of our Earth’s oceans every 24 minutes. Since the Orion Nebula’s light takes 1,400 years to reach us, you can imagine how long it would take us to tap into that water!

Nobody knows how water arrived on our planet—or if it was spontaneously generated here—but we do know about the water in your mouth. Now, you might want to take a moment to feel the saliva on your tongue and to feel the saliva under your tongue that your salivary glands are secreting. Actually, if you think about your salivary glands, you’ll salivate. This water hasn’t always been in your mouth. Nor will it stay there. Before you drank it, it was rain, it was cloud, it was mist, it was lake, ocean, river, stream. It was ice, it was snow, sleet, hail, glacier, or maybe even steam. This morphing and moving of H20 is called our world-wide water cycle.

In 2008 half of the food in my garden died from a horrible drought. When you lose food, you take notice. You rig up a way to catch rain from your downspout. Now my food isn’t dying. And I’m much more conservative with what flows from my faucets. I’m so conservative that last week Maui County thought my water meter was broken—until they checked it out. As I save water in bottles, jugs, buckets and tubs, I listen to it. I hear it telling me about the places it’s been and about the forms it’s taken. Just the other day when I was listening to the water in my kitchen sink, it gave me the idea for this radio program. So, I’m not just conserving water; I’m in awe of it. And, I’m wondering if you know what drives our world-wide water cycle? It’s driven by the intense heat of the star that we’re orbiting!

This is Harriet Witt, your guide… for this little ride… on our passenger planet… You can find what you’ve just read here—along with other maps of our cosmic journey—at

Let Harriet be your guide to Maui’s night sky on our Sunset & Celestial Cruise and explore more unique ways of perceiving the universe and our place within it.

PWF Education: Year in Review

Submitted by PWF Education Manager Robyn Ehrlich
What has our education team been up to this year? Well, we’ve had another successful year of our tried and true programs: Ocean Camp, Keiki Whalewatch, and now Plastic Pollution Solutions. We’ve also begun to work toward some new additions to our offerings, and have even more exciting things to look forward to in 2020! 

Ocean Camp

During the thirteen weeks of the year we offered our Ocean Camp program, we had a total of over 1,050 campers. Participants learned about and gained appreciation for the ocean through fun, hands-on learning in our classrooms and exciting field trips throughout the island, including two snorkel trips each week on one of our eco-tour vessels.

Keiki Whalewatch

The number of students participating in our Keiki Whalewatch program has continued to increase. In 2019, our program reached a total of 3,253 students, which is an increase of 71% from just three short years ago!  This year was the second year this program has reached students on both Lana’i and Molokai. Participants were introduced to the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of humpback whales through hands-on classroom programs, and through whalewatching adventures our eco-tour vessels.

Plastic Pollution Solutions

This program began in the fall of 2018 in conjunction with the County of Maui and Plastic Ocean Foundation in order to provide our expertise on marine life, ocean health, and the impact of plastic to educators and keiki. We have been able to continue this worthwhile program and expand it, thanks in part to the Atherton Family Foundation, reaching students of all ages. To date, the program has directly reached over 2,050 students in schools throughout Maui County (including Molokai and Lana’i) in 2019. We have created a special version of our Plastic Pollution Solutions program to reach keiki in Australia in 2020!

Life-size Inflatable Humpback Whale

In 2018, our dream of adding a life-sized inflatable humpback whale to our education program offerings became a reality thanks to a donation from Dee at Discover the Depths in Illinois. She created a (larger than) life-size inflatable humpback whale with a group of students in Chicago. After using this whale in education programs for several years, she donated him to us. Unfortunately, being larger than the average life-size of a humpback whale meant we had some trouble fitting him in the indoor spaces in schools here in Hawai‘i. After several attempts, we decided it was time to pass him on to a new home where he could be better utilized.  As I put out a message to other educators, I wondered: who would want a life-size inflatable humpback whale? As it turns out, everyone does! We received responses from formal and informal educators all over the world!  Due to his size and the reality of shipping, we were able to send him to the island of Oahu on one of our boats to be used in education programs there. 

We then set out to have our own customized life-size inflatable humpback whale created! It is modeled after a real humpback whale in our catalog and was named as a part of our online auction. The winning bidder chose the very appropriate name ‘Ohana, Hawaiian for family, in honor of his own beloved family. We can’t wait to share her with students through our Keiki Whalewatch program in 2020! ‘Ohana, the real whale, will be added to our adoption catalog very soon as well.

New ADOPT curriculum

Through our adoption program, you can symbolically adopt marine animals in our catalogs and support our work to protect them. One of our adoption options is a classroom package that provides, among other things, educators marine-animal themed lesson plans for grades K-8. We are updating the curriculum and expanding it to K-12 to reach more students; adding an option to schedule a Skype session with a staff member for a Q&A; creating new activities that incorporate our research and ways to conserve the ocean and individual species; and more!

Incorporating New Technology

After attending a workshop to learn more about ways to use virtual reality and augmented reality in education programs, I am excited to introduce these emerging technologies into our education program offerings. Stay tuned for an exciting virtual reality experience partnership we’ll be sharing in the new year!

Youth Education Specialist Becca Lewis and Education Manager Robyn Ehrlich

We have had the honor of educating people from both near and far about marine life for the past 40 years and look forward to the next decade of making a difference! Visit our Education page for more information on our programs and to learn how you can participate.

Christmas Critters

Happy Holidays from Pacific Whale Foundation! Everyone is in the holiday spirit, including some of our underwater friends 😉 Did you know that there is marine life found in the waters of Maui whose names are holiday inspired? Here are some ‘Christmas Critters’ to get to know today.

Candy Cane Shrimp

Candy cane shrimp, Parihippolyte mistica, are found deep with caves and lava tubes in Hawaii.

Parhippolyte mistica, the Candy Cane Shrimp can be identified from other similar red and white shrimp by their five or six red bands on a whitish translucent body, which is what gives them their common name. The bright yellow ovaries of the females can often be seen through the top of the carapace or the top of the exoskeleton (shell). The legs are spindly and the antennae are long. They inhabit the deepest recesses of caves and usually live in small groups. They will venture out to the edges of caves, but only at night. They can often be confused with a similar species, P. uveae, but vary in their activity…the latter venture towards the edge of caves by day. In order to see a Candy Cane shrimp, you would most likely have to deep dive in an underwater cave or dive at night. (Information from Hoover, Hawaii’s Sea Creatures)

Christmas Wrasse

Thalassoma trilobatum, were named for their green and red coloration. They are also called ladder wrasses, ‘awela (Hawaiian), and green-barred wrasses, and can be up to 11 inches in length. Wrasses are a big-lipped, spindle-shaped fish that “flap” their pectoral fins up and down while swimming. Males and females exhibit sexual dimorphism in color, and may change color, and even sex, during their lives. Males in their terminal color phase are brightly-colored, while females are green with black lines. The most brilliantly-colored male Christmas wrasses have reddish-pink background coloration on their body with ladder-like stripes that are bright blue and green in color. In its initial phase, a male has a diagonal dark red line below its eye. The head of the male is brown, orange or shaded with blue, while the head of females is spotted. Younger animals of both sexes are a more drab green and brown color. Christmas wrasses feed during the day, and prey upon crustaceans, brittle stars, mollusks, and sometimes small fish, using canine teeth in their upper and lower jaws. Wrasses crush their prey using pharyngeal bones that are located near their gills. Reproduction occurs sexually, with spawning occurring during the day. Males become more intense in color during spawning time, and their fins may be blue or blackish-blue in color. The males display by swimming back and forth and waving their pectoral fins. Males may form a harem with several females. If the primary male in a group dies, a female may change sex to replace him. Christmas wrasses are listed as –of least concern– on the IUCN Red List and are widespread throughout their range. They are fished in limited numbers, but more important to humans for their use in the aquarium trade. The Christmas wrasse’s ability to change colors and sex has caused confusion over the years over species identification.

It also looks similar to another species in a similar habitat – the surge wrasse (Thalassoma purpureum), which is similar in color, although there is a v-shaped mark on their snout which is absent in the Christmas wrasse. (Information from

Surge Wrasse
Source: zsispeo/flicker

Christmas Tree Worms

Spirobranchus giganteus, are also known as the Christmas tree worm. The common name for these worms is derived from their appearance, not their habitat or diet. Each worm has two brightly colored crowns that protrude from its tube-like body. These Christmas tree-like crowns are composed of radioles, or hair-like appendages radiating from the worm’s central spine. These appendages are used for respiration and to catch dinner, which typically consists of microscopic plants, or phytoplankton, floating in the water.

These worms are sedentary, meaning that once they find a place they like, they don’t move much. In fact, while the colorful crowns of these worms are visible, most of their bodies are anchored in burrows that they bore into live coral. When startled, Christmas tree worms rapidly retract into their burrows, hiding from would-be predators. Christmas tree worms come in a variety of bright colors. They aren’t very big, averaging about 1.5 inches in length. However, because of their distinctive shape, beauty, and color, these worms are easily spotted. They are some of the most widely recognized polycheates, or marine burrowing, segmented worms out there. When approached by divers or snorkelers, they will sneak back into their burrow briefly. (Information from NOAA)

Snowflake Moray Eel

Echinda nebulosa, The snowflake eel is relatively small, slender eel with distinctive markings (basically white with large black blotches and tiny yellow and black spots). The front of the head is usually solid white. They do not possess sharp teeth and tend to be shy and timid. They crush their small crab and fish prey with tiny pebble like teeth. They can found in tide pools or depths of up to 90 feet, but are most often found in shallow areas composed of rocky bottom, coral rubble, or on reef flats. This species can reach 71 cm (28in). They can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific and are common in Hawaii at most of our local snorkel locations. (Information from Russo, Hawaiian Reefs)

Book a snorkel Eco-Adventure with us today to see these wonderful creatures up-close and in-person. Click for menu.