Whale behavior is the most fascinating, least understood, most difficult to study, and least funded area of whale research. So little is known about whale behavior that it is rarely considered in management and conservation programs. Yet, without such information, it is impossible to determine the impact of human activity on whales, or to know whether our efforts to protect them and their habitat are succeeding. Whale Trust Maui was established in 2001 to address this need.
Animal Behavior Research
Behavioral studies, analyzed within the broader mammalian context, provide critical insights into the nature of whales, including how living in a marine environment may impact mammalian biology.
Why is Animal Behavior Research Important?
The conservation of endangered species requires that we know enough about natural behavior patterns (migratory patterns, interactions with other groups, foraging demands, reproductive behavior, communication) that we can develop effective protection measures. Whale Trust Maui’s research addresses the natural behavior patterns associated with reproduction and communication.
Public Awareness and Outreach
Whale behavior captures the imagination of the public and inspires people to want to learn more about a species and their environment. Marine biologists who explore whale behavior ask the same questions the rest of us are curious about (why do whales sing?). That is why such studies are the ideal basis for education.
We Can’t Protect What We Don’t Understand
Only through a full integration of studies of population biology, genetics, ecology and behavior, and the interpretation and dissemination of this information to policy makers and the public, will meaningful management and conservation programs evolve.
Humpback Whales are Protected
Humpback whales are protected in the United States by the Endangered Species Act (1973) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972).
As a result of this protected status, conducting research on humpback whales in Hawaii requires scientific research permits authorized by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
Boats in Hawaii that have the necessary permits and authorization to conduct research with humpback whales in Hawaii are marked by a yellow flag that is prominently displayed from the research boat.
Whale Trust Maui Research Permits
Whale Trust Maui researchers work under NOAA Fisheries permit and the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Permit. All the photos and research projects referenced on this website have been part of research conducted in accordance with federal and state permit regulations. For more information on the permitting process or laws protecting marine mammals, please visit the NOAA Fisheries Service website.
Whale Watching Regulations in Hawai`i
Several photographs on this website show close human interaction with whales, which were captured during our field research. It should be noted that unless operating under a research permit, approaching humpback whales within 100 yards (300 feet) or within 1,000 feet from aircraft is prohibited by federal regulations. To maintain our permit privileges, we regularly submit reports of our interactions and findings and are required to re-apply every five years.