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1st humpback whale sighting of the season spotted off Maui

Richard Fisher / Flickr
Richard Fisher / Flickr

HONOLULU — The first whale of the humpback whale wintering season in Hawaii has been spotted in waters off Maui.

Nick Moran, a flight instructor for Go Fly Maui, was training students off the coast of Kaihalulu beach in Hana when something caught their eye.

"I'm thinking, okay, maybe a shark, like hitting a turtle, but it was way bigger than that. So we went out there and we saw this big gray shape in the water and it came up and breathed and breached again," Moran told KITV.

"We were super excited," Moran said. But they also wondered if it was too soon to be seeing the mammals given humpback whales normally winter in the islands from November through April.

"Like I think the first reaction was, uh, are they allowed to come this early?" Moran said.

Allen Tom, superintendent for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said not to worry.

"This might be a little early, but not too early, so it's good," Tom said.

About half of the North Pacific humpback whale population migrates to the Hawaiian Islands from Alaska each winter. They breed, give birth and nurse their young while in warmer Hawaii waters.

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