Pacific Whale Foundation snags 2011 WorkBoat Environmental Award, Interview with Greg Kaufman, and Save the Whales updates

Greg Kaufman, Pacific Whale Foundation

The Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) has been honing their green practices skill for 32 years, but on a mainstream level for businesses it’s a relatively new thing. Workboat Magazine and its website workboat.com is a resource for commercial marine professionals and recognizes these marine businesses doing the right thing at their annual Environmental Awards. This year Pacific Whale Foundation has been received the Judges Special Recognition Award for Comprehensive Environmental Management.

Workboat noted that Pacific Whale Foundation’s tours educate more than 300,000 guests about marine conservation each year. All profits support research, education and conservation programs to protect the ocean environment. Programs supported include marine science field trips and lab programs for school children, cetacean research, and Volunteering on Vacation, which links visitors with environmental service opportunities.

They also felt the Pacific Whale Foundation’s multifaceted Green Practices Program was especially significant. It’s a program that works to: 1) reduce energy usage and the carbon footprint of Pacific Whale Foundation’s ocean eco-tours; 2) model responsible wildlife watching; 3) reduce landfill waste and prevent marine debris; and 4), test and showcase environmentally sustainable practices that can be utilized throughout the maritime industry.

These specialists throw a lot of big words around so I asked Greg Kaufman, whale researcher, author, activist and founder/president of Pacific Whale Foundation to take a moment to explain the nitty gritty of being a green business and non profit in Hawaii:

MAUITIME: Tell me more about the Green Practices Program. How is it implemented. When did you start it?

GREG KAUFMAN: The Green Practices Program is a formalization of steps we have taken during the past 32 years in our continual quest to make our ocean ecotours as eco-friendly as possible. We realize the tremendous educational value of giving people the opportunity to experience the ocean environment and observe whales, dolphins and other marine wildlife. We believe that these educational experiences help to create constituents for conservation and environmental protection. At the same time, we recognize that all human activity has an impact on the environment. It is our goal to mitigate any impacts on the environment to the greatest extent possible.

MT: How significant is this new award to you?

KAUFMAN: This award recognizes the tremendous amount of hard work, and the investment of time and energy that Pacific Whale Foundation has put into establishing Green Practices on our vessels and in our operations. Believe me, it’s not always a simple matter to find the greener alternative to conventional practices. And it’s often more costly and time consuming. But for Pacific Whale Foundation, protecting the environment is our true bottom line.

MT: What businesses do you look to for inspiration in your green practices?

KAUFMAN: We look toward companies that measure their success in how they help to protect our planet. Some that come to mind are Patagonia, Seventh Generation and Styrophobia. As a nonprofit, we also look at other nonprofit organizations that participate in social enterprise as a way to generate funds. There are many nonprofits that come to mind, including the Girl Scouts of America, who sell cookies or Cars For Change in Washington, DC, that sell cars to fund their mission-related work.

MT: How has this current season been for whale research? 

KAUFMAN: Our whale research takes place year-round, in places that include Ecuador, Chile, Tonga and Hawaii. Our research team in Chile is heading out shortly to the very remote area near Patagonia where they will be studying blue whales. Our Ecuador research took place during the months of June, July and August. And our Australia research project took place in August, September and October. Here on Maui, we will be beginning our shorebased study of vessel-whale interactions, observed with the use of a theodolite stationed on the cliffs above Ma’alaea Bay, starting in two weeks.

In addition, we have also been using our Whale and Dolphin Tracker software program to record all sightings of whales and other cetaceans by our seven commercial vessels. Next week we roll out an upgraded data collection system that expands the Whale and Dolphin Tracker software and incorporates it into our research on preventing whale collisions by studying surprise encounters with whales in the vicinity of vessels. We have found that the protocol we have developed for our naturalists and captains to record details about all of our sightings results in an immense amount of data gathered during the season – far more than we could ever hope to gather in our research boat. This data supplements our Researcher on Board program, which has stationed our researchers on our commercial whalewatch tours, to gather data about whale encounters.

The field work for our ongoing study of the odontocetes (toothed whales and dolphins) of  Maui and Lanai will begin on February 1. We are looking at humpback whale interactions with odontocetes as part of that work.

In  terms of educational practices, all our naturalists are now Certified Interpretive Guides through the National Center for Interpretation. Our staff is the only staff   to hold this certification in Hawaii. Our “Eco U” program provides over 100 hours of training for each naturalist prior to commencing work. Pacific Whale Foundation offers the only whalewatch trips that devotes 100% of all profits to benefit the whales, everyday. In terms of passenger numbers, we are comfortably ahead of last year’s numbers.

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Want more whales? On Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and Spa on Wailea Alanui Drive at 6:30 pm Kaufman will lead the multimedia presentation “Tales of Humpbacks: The Latest Research Discoveries and a Journey to Save Them,” which is based on based on more than 35 years of whale research.

He will present the latest discoveries about whales, through a riveting multimedia presentation including photos and video. Kaufman will offer updates from Pacific Whale Foundation’s ongoing whale research in  Australia, Latin America, Europe, Oceania and Hawaii and will share insights and adventures from his ongoing journey to help save whales.

Kaufman’s presentation will include insights about worldwide whale protection at the International Whaling Commission. Kaufman’s involvement with the International Whaling Commission began in 1979, when he was the IWC Scientific Advisor to the Kingdom of Tonga. Since 2008, Kaufman has been an invited participant to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee.

In addition, As part of the Maui Whale Festival, Pacific Whale Foundation is inviting the public to a gala reception celebrating the opening of the new “Photo Tribute to the Whales” exhibit in Maalaea on Friday, Jan. 27, from 6pm to 7:30pm at the Photo Tribute to the Whales exhibit, which will be on display indoors at the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops. Admission is free, to both the reception and the exhibit.

The Photo Tribute to the Whales exhibit will feature works by professional wildlife photographers Monica and Michael Sweet, Douglas and Meiko Hoffman, David Fleetham and several Pacific Whale Foundation member photographers, including Herb Hartmann and Dale Walsh. It will also include photos taken by Pacific Whale Foundation’s researchers and naturalists, including photography by Greg Kaufman, Founder and President of Pacific Whale Foundation.

The reception will offer opportunities to meet the photographers, talk story about whales and enjoy refreshments. Soft drinks and pupu will be provided by Porto, a new artisan pizzeria featuring flame-fired handcrafted pizzas, also located at the Maalaea Harbor Shops.

Following the opening night reception, the Photo Tribute to the Whales Exhibit will be open to the public daily, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 29  at the Maalaea Harbor Shops. The exhibit hours will be 10am to 4pm. Admission is free.

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