Photo Courtesy of Maui Ocean Project:

If you love marine life, you may be excited to hear that three grey reef shark pups were very recently born at the Maui Ocean Center in the 750,000 gallon Open Ocean exhibit. One of the pups was a male, and the other two were females, with an average length of 22 inches. The pups were born after an 11-12 month gestation period.

To ensure the safety of the pups, the aquarists of course transferred them to a protected quarantine zone before it was announced by Curatorial Director John Gorman that all would be released into the ocean offshore. Evidently, the pups are born ready for independent survival, needing no care from their mother. That means they are born knowing how to hunt for the free swimming bony fish that are their preferred prey.

Conveniently for the aquarium, grey reef sharks are native to our waters, so their habitat is all around the island, although they have their favorite areas like most other species. Releasing the pups is the standard choice of the aquarium, but they do sometimes raise them to adulthood to educate the public about the species.

The MOC has been so successful in keeping their sharks that they have seen many shark births at their facility since they opened their doors, such as whitetip reef sharks, sandbar sharks, grey reef sharks and blacktip reef sharks. In fact, we recently blogged about the blacktip pups that were added to the aquarium’s collection in July.

If you want to see sharks, the aquarium is the way to go. They are uncommon sightings if you’re joining us on our Molokini Snorkel Tour or our Lanai Snorkel Tour, a fact that most snorkelers appreciate. With us, you’re likely to see Hawaiian green sea turtles and a myriad of brightly colored fish. We hope you’ll join us soon! If you need assistance with your tour booking, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

Intrepid explorers from the University of Hawaii and the nonprofit group Conservation International have recently been to Cook seamount, a previously unexplored extinct volcano located at a depth of 3,000 feet about 100 miles southwest of the Big Island. They found many fascinating creatures, including one coral in particular that the scientists believe could be a new species.

Clinging to the seamount’s cliffs, the mysterious coral boasts a rich violet color, which prompted the scientists to give it the nickname “Purple Haze.”  They also spotted what appeared to be two Dumbo octopuses, one of which changed color from white to pink and finally reddish brown as it passed the submersible. These were the most exciting sightings, but there were also starfish, crabs, eels, shrimp, sharks, and chimaera, also known as “ghost sharks.”

Seamounts are particularly interesting to scientists because they are created by active or dormant volcanoes, which tend to generate nutrients that well up into the waters above. This fosters dynamic deep sea ecosystems full of weird and fascinating creatures. Although seamounts are believed to cover around 18 million square miles of the planet, they remain largely unexplored, which is why Conservation International aims to study 50 of them in the next five years.

The 80 million-year-old Cook seamount rises 13,000 feet from the ocean floor, but that still leaves it 3,000 feet from the ocean’s surface where no sunlight can penetrate. Only the submersibles provided light, so the scientists could observe the marine life at such a depth, that and the occasional bioluminescent creature that drifted by.

Hawaii is a hotspot for biodiversity, and access to deep ocean submersibles have facilitated a growing parade of discoveries. But if you’d like to observe Hawaii’s stunning array of sea creatures, you don’t have to plunge into the deep ocean to find them. Both our Molokini Snorkel Tour and Lanai Snorkel Tour will whisk you off to some of the most fantastic reefs in reach from Maui. We look forward to helping you discover these remarkable ecosystems. If you need our assistance, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

Nine of fourteen humpback whale populations have been removed from the endangered species list, according to a recent report from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This triumph is being celebrated by conservationists and nature lovers the world over, not just for what it means for the whales, but because it proves that all our conservation efforts are changing the world.

Maui whale watching tours are among the most popular activities that visitors enjoy, so on top of all the other great things about this recovery, it's good for the economy too. Perhaps this success will add momentum to worldwide conservation efforts. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, so we have to keep it up. It took 40 years for conservation measures to get humpback populations to this level, and some of those populations still need help. Out of 14 total distinct populations, four are still protected as endangered and one is listed as threatened.

The reason for the initial decline of humpback whale numbers was, not surprisingly, commercial whaling. Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, when it became painfully clear that their numbers were failing. At that time, NOAA Fisheries sprang into action to protect them on a national and international scale. It's a good thing they did. The International Whaling Commission placed a moratorium on whaling in 1982, which also played a big role in humpback recovery.

Although some of the humpback populations are no longer endangered, protections remain in place. In fact, two regulations were recently filed to maintain protections for whales in Alaska and here in Hawaii. These regulations specify distance limits for approaching vessels in order to help ensure the whales' safety. We observe such laws with the utmost care, as you'll know if you've ever been on one of our Maui whale watch tours in the past. If you'd like to join us on one of these tours in the future, you don't have long to wait. Whale watching season is just a couple of months away!

A beautiful new Hawaiian fish was recently discovered within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, and it has been named Tosanoides Obama Pyle. The fish was named after the president in gratitude for his decision to expand the monument, which we discussed last week. Also, the fish bears similarities with the president's campaign logo colors, which helped scientists finalize their decision.

This particular species is from the genus Tosanoides, and was discovered at Kure within the monument, which happens to be the world's northernmost atoll. This member of the Tosanoides genus is the only one that exists outside the waters of Japan. At some point in history, a population happened to find its way from Japanese waters all the way to Kure, where their isolation and new habitat cultivated their unique traits, until they became their own species. What a journey it must have been!

The monument includes no less than 17 genera and 22 species (so far) that scientists have found nowhere else in the world, meaning it has the highest rate of marine endemism ever recorded. Considering all the untouched coral reefs and seamounts, it's no surprise that the monument is such an oasis to animal life. Its 7,000 plus species include endangered turtles, monk seals and seabirds, along with a host of other dynamic species.

The main Hawaiian islands, including Maui, are located at the southeastern end of the chain. They are the youngest and therefor largest of the islands, but a fantastic array of marine species have had plenty of time to establish themselves off our scenic coastlines. To explore some remarkable Hawaiian reefs, we hope you'll try both our Molokini snorkel tour and our Lanai snorkel tour.

If you need our assistance with your Maui ocean activities, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. We are currently offering a 10% discount for all our activities if you book online, but this may change in the future, so we hope you'll take advantage of it now! Mahalo!

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the uninhabited northwestern Hawaiian islands has just been expanded by President Obama, according to an announcement from the White House. The monument was neither doubled, nor tripled, but quadrupled from 139,797 square miles to 582,578 square miles, which is now the largest marine protected area, and double the size of Texas.

As you can imagine, there were those who opposed the expansion, mostly from fishing and restaurant industries, but interestingly, hundreds of small-scale fisherman supported the expansion. In the end, success was earned through the combined efforts of a group of Native Hawaiians, a statewide coalition and a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy Project.

Over a million people from Hawaii and around the world signed petitions in support. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii was also an invaluable contributor, having submitted the expansion proposal to the president, among other efforts. Other supporters include Governor Ige, along with about 1,500 scientists.

What makes this monument so important to protect? Its waters contain the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the ocean that scientists have yet discovered. Over 7,000 known species exist there, and more are being discovered over time. Some consider its crowning glory to be the black coral, which is the longest living known marine species in the world, some of which are upwards of 4,500 years of age.

Even here off the shores of the main Hawaiian islands, our marine ecosystems are marvels for scientists and explorers. If you'd like to experience these remarkable underwater ecosystems, we hope to see you aboard either our Molokini Snorkel Tour or our Lanai Snorkel Tour. Both offer a plethora of marine life sightings. Don't forget your underwater camera! If you need assistance booking your trip, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!