NOAA Ship Serves As Classroom For Hawai‘i Students
The NOAA ship, Hi‘ialakai took on a new mission in 2005 by providing a platform for students to learn about their island state from an ocean view. In May, the ship set sail on a cruise in the main Hawaiian Islands dedicated to education. The goals of these education cruises are to inspire increased awareness and the possibilities of further studies or even careers in the marine sciences. Over a span of four days, 140 high school students and teachers from Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and Kona, on the island of Hawai‘i participated in hands-on marine biology and oceanographic activities including water quality monitoring, plankton tows, bottom sampling, navigation and mapping.
Whale Rescued from Marine Debris
More than 50 pounds of rope and netting were removed from a humpback whale that was entangled in marine debris off of Maui. Responding to a call from concerned researchers, the sanctuary’s rescue team worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to remove the potentially deadly debris that was wrapped around the animal. Using control lines and special tools designed for this purpose, the rescue team was able to carefully cut off the marine debris and watch the one-year old whale swim away.
Sanctuary staff work with NOAA and other partners in the Hawaiian Islands to respond to whale emergencies and to educate fishermen, boaters and the maritime shipping industry on how to avoid harming these magnificent animals. Most recently, staff and partners freed a humpback whale off the island of Lana’i that was snared in life-threatening lines dragging 25 feet from the whale’s mouth.
Ancient Fish Pond Reconstruction
Two native Hawaiian groups, from Moloka‘i and Maui began the official reconstruction of the Ko`ie`ie fishpond wall fronting the sanctuary's Maui office. The fishpond is being rebuilt using traditional Native Hawaiian methods. The rocks are all being collected from within the fishpond, sized and put together like a jigsaw puzzle. As of today the new wall is about 8’ tall, 10’ wide and about 30 ‘ long. The entire process is expected to take about two years. The wall stands 2 feet above high tide and will help to contain the wave action and erosion problems at the site as well as provide a platform for educational opportunities.
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Storm Drain Stenciling Project
The site and Hawaii Sea Grant co-sponsored the “Storm Drain Stenciling Project” on Maui. The stenciling project utilizes volunteers to stencil a “Don’t dump, drains to ocean” message on storm drains. The stencil features either a fish or a humpback whale outline. The purpose of the project is to promote keeping Hawai`i’s oceans clean.
“Protecting Hawaii’s Ocean Treasures”
The sanctuary produced an educational insert entitled Protecting Hawai‘i’s Ocean Treasures. The insert was distributed to over 150,000 residents statewide by the Honolulu Advertiser in November of 2004. Protecting Hawai‘i’s Ocean Treasures was dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge on conservation related topics specific to the marine environment, with an emphasis on humpback whales. The insert is a comprehensive guide to marine conservation in Hawai‘i and how people can be responsive to helping protect Hawai‘i’s ocean resources. More than 15 organizations, including the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, contributed to the project.
Whale Month 2005 was celebrated during January on the island of Oahu. The month-long calendar of special events included lectures, video presentations, lunchtime whale watches, and more. Lectures were offered at a variety of venues and a variety of guest speakers were featured on topics ranging from humpback whale research to current environmental issues in Hawai‘i. Partners for this effort included the University of Hawaii Sea Grant’s Hanauma Bay Education Program, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, the City and county of Honolulu, and the University of Hawai‘i’s Marine Option Program. Shoreline whale watches were offered at Waimea Bay, Diamond Head, and Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse. Additional lunchtime whale watches and other events were also held throughout the state. For 2006, the sanctuary is launching a public awareness campaign around the state during February as part of Humpback Whale Awareness Month with the goal of increasing public awareness about the sanctuary, humpback whales, responsible wildlife viewing, and safe boating procedures.
Warning Boaters of Whale Collision Risks
To address the growing risk of vessel-whale collisions during Hawai‘i’s humpback season, new signage has been designed to caution boaters of the collision danger and provide collision avoidance guidelines. The signs were installed in 11 small boat harbors and ramps across the state. Led by the state’s sanctuary office at the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, this effort was strongly supported and informed by sanctuary’s advisory council.
Sanctuary Ocean Count Project
The annual Sanctuary Ocean Count Project was a great success again this year. Over 1,500 volunteers participated in this year’s count where volunteers watch whales and record their behaviors from over sixty-five shoreline locations. This popular outreach effort continues to grow each year and has become a favorite project of many Hawai‘i residents and tourists. Aside from the data that is collected, the project increases awareness about NOAA and Hawai‘i’s precious marine environment.
Whales After School
The sanctuary kicked off a new program entitled Whales After School this year on the island of O‘ahu. Whales After School was designed to give students that attend after school programs the opportunity to participate in a hands-on learning program about humpback whales and the marine environment. The program was offered each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during the months of February, March and April. Sessions lasted approximately an hour and a half and varied somewhat depending upon the size of the group(s). The program consisted of a variety of hands-on activities related to art, literature, and science, information about humpback whale migration, behavior, biology, and how we can protect Hawai‘i’s humpback whales and other marine protected species. Over 1,000 children from all around the island of O‘ahu took part in the program. In addition to reaching the children, the program also offered information to the families of those that attended, thereby extending the information on humpback whales, the sanctuary, and Hawai‘i’s marine protected species to more than just participants. This was a great way to get the word out to local families around Hawaii.
Sanctuary Lecture Series
A four-island lecture and training tour was designed in the past six months by the sanctuary’s four island program coordinators in order to increase public awareness of the SPLASH research project and provide advanced training opportunities for sanctuary volunteers and others who provide marine mammal information. The sanctuary sponsored a four-island lecture and volunteer/naturalist training tour by Hawaii marine mammal researcher Mark Deakos. The 90-minute public lecture entitled, “Hawaii’s Humpback WhalesTheir Past, Present and Future” was attended by over 250 participants. In addition, 153 participants attended the four-hour advanced training session. These multi-media presentations were very well received and were exceptionally successful in presenting new research results and providing more substantial information about Hawai‘i’s marine mammals with an emphasis on the humpback whale.
World Water Monitoring Day
The sanctuary partnered with University of Hawai‘i’s Sea Grant College Program to sponsor World Water Monitoring Day during October. The international project collects data from around the world and shares the collected information on the project’s website. The main objective of the event was to increase awareness of the importance of protecting both freshwater and saltwater.
2004 SPLASH Survey
The spring meeting of the SPLASH steering committee was hosted by the University of Southern Baja California. The three-day meeting was partially supported by NOAA and the Convention for Environmental Cooperation, a side accord to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The meeting highlighted the success of the summer 2004 SPLASH field season, and the winter 2005 field seasons in Asia, Hawai'i, Mexico and Central America. The meeting culminated with an "end of the season" SPLASH cruise in the waters off of La Paz, Mexico, during which six very late season humpbacks were found, along with three blue whales (including a mother and calf) and a brydes whale. The cross-cultural event also provided an opportunity for the Mexican students to interact with members of the steering committee, whom they only new through their scientific papers, resulting in some summer training opportunities in the U.S. for the students.
Recording Acoustic Sounds of Sanctuary
The sanctuary partnered with Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to participate in soundscape studies of the parks waters in order to assess the natural soundscapes that exist in the park. During a three-hour cruise a hydrophone was utilized to collect acoustic data from four different sites around the park waters.
Protecting Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals
Sanctuary personnel continue to lead the effort to protect the newborn Hawaiian monk seal pup and mother at Kaihuna Beach, Kaua‘i. The mother and pup are being protected from disturbance with the use of a roped-off perimeter staffed around the clock by sanctuary staff and volunteers. Hundreds of people have come down to the beach to observe the pup and learn about this endangered species firsthand. Media coverage has been extensive, ranging from local TV coverage to articles in mainland newspapers. Staff are also making sure people keep their distance for their own safety, since the 500-pound mother seal may try to bite people who get too close to her pup.
Plans for 2006
In October 2005, construction on the sanctuary’s learning center began in Kihei, Maui. The new facility will complement the existing landmark blue office building and mural-painted education center, and will provide programs on the marine environment, venue for community meetings and facilities for research and education. This new multipurpose building is planned to be completed at the end of 2006.
Ocean literacy programs will be expanded to include a strong science-based marine curriculum that will be developed and implemented for the Hawai‘i Department of Education. Curriculum will be delivered as classroom materials, curriculum modules, resource materials and web based activities. Another important aspect of this initiative is to provide “in-the-field” opportunities. This involves developing monitoring projects, providing field equipment and establishing study areas. The curriculum will be developed with input from a teacher advisory group and Department of Education curriculum developers.