How is Covid-19 Affecting Maui’s Whales, Dolphins and Turtles?

ocean life

We know Covid-19 has affected all of us, but what about Maui’s marine life?

Not only has there been stay-at-home recommendations for everyone on Maui during this time, but the 14-day quarantine for visitors has put a complete halt on tourism. We’re going to unpack the impact Covid-19 has had on Maui’s whales, dolphins and turtles!

Humpback whales migrate 3000 miles every year from Alaska to Hawaii in the winter months and then back to Alaska. While in Hawaii, humpback whales mate, give birth and begin raising their young. Back in Alaska, humpback whales feed all summer long, preparing for their journey back to Hawaii. Dolphins and green sea turtles reside in Hawaii throughout the year, only moving around the warm tropical waters in the area. The good news is that there is no evidence that any of these marine animals can contract Covid-19. This doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t impacted other variables in their lives, so we will explore these affects.

Less boating, more connecting

With the lack of tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, less boats have been on the water and whale watching tours have been postponed. Past research has shown that some noises from vessels may disturb whale behavior, so less boats on the water may be giving them more opportunity to proceed with their daily activities. During tour operations, our offering smaller boat charters is a big part of our overall visions to minimize the size of vessels on the water, their noise as well as creating that intimate experience with marine life. Also with less of us in the water, we have sunscreens affecting the coral reefs. Reef health is the foundation for all marine life, as it provides food, habitat and nutrients balance in the ocean.Even though our on the water interactions with marine life including humpback whales, dolphins and turtles has been postponed, we are having so much fun sharing photos and videos from our guests and captains’ past interactions with marine life on our social media. We are also continuing to educate our ohana through social media, while learning more about our visitors, what they love about Maui, marine animals and any other questions they have about our operations and our favorite marine mammals, humpback whales and dolphins.

Less fishing, more fish

We can assume the reduction of restaurant visits has already impacted the fisheries, which may in turn help remove some pressure on overfished areas. Believe it or not, fish and fish products are the most sold food universally. Although there is no evidence that fish can contract Covid-19, additional precautions have been taken to prevent human contamination of the products when packaging for consumption, and with the reduction of tourism and restaurant dining, fish product production has been reduced. The economic impact of this is devastating, especially for the small-scale fisherman, but the relief for our fisheries may be a breath of fresh air for them so to speak. We are trying to focus on the positive and the health of our fisheries impacts the marine balance of our oceans as well as the feeding and migrating of our humpback whales, dolphins and turtles. Although humpback whales do not feed while they are in Maui, the fisheries in Alaska are being impacted as well.

Less research, more small group projects

One of the obvious cons of the Covid-19 pandemic restriction is the decline in research. Due to the social distancing regulations, many researchers were unable to use their entire teams to conduct research programs. That being said, we have still been able to assist researchers with modifying and continuing their work by hosting smaller teams on our research vessel Aloha Kai. The other benefit of conducting research during this time is with the reduction of vessels on the water, researchers are able to reach locations, study marine life and document without distractions or interference. The lack of funding and grants for research can also be a factor in their continued work as our economies have been greatly affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is why your tickets to whale watch and snorkel are so important as they allow us to offer our vessels and captains to research groups!

COVID-19 UPDATE ON MAUI

As of June 2020, Maui’s beaches and parks are open! Yay! Our retail locations and restaurants are open (for sit down meals as well), and our inter-island flights will no longer require 14 day quarantine periods. The impact of COVID-19 to Maui has not been a health impact as the virus was mild here, but economically it has devastated us with the halt of tourism and travel which is the foundation for our people here, whether they work directly in tourism or not.
Not only will you be supporting the people of Hawaii when you travel back to Maui this summer, fall and winter, but it is one of the safest places to travel during this uncertain time in the rest of the world.

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