Hawaiian waters are known for their ocean migrations, from humpback whales to green sea turtles to great white sharks, but did you know that the biggest fish in the world also visits the islands?
Whale sharks, which can reach 60 feet, have eluded residents and scientists alike, but Kona-based Hawaiʻi Uncharted Research Collective is working to learn more about these gentle giants.
The public is invited to learn more about HURC and these animals during a free presentation, “A Look at Whale Sharks in Hawaii: A Research Effort for the Conservation of an Endangered Species,” led by HURC founder Maria Harvey. The Zoom presentation will take place Wednesday, August 3 at 5:30 p.m. as part of the Maui Nui Marine Resources Council’s Know Your Ocean monthly speaker series, sponsored by Maui County.
Harvey founded HURC in 2017 with a mission to conduct research on whale sharks and other marine organisms in Hawaiian waters, focusing on population dynamics, ecology, animal behavior and human impacts. HURC merges community engagement with scientific research, drawing on citizen science and field studies to better understand how and why these sharks use Hawaii’s offshore areas. The results of this research will support local and global efforts to conserve whale sharks and their environment.
His presentation will cover how and why Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective was formed and give viewers insight into the organization’s research projects. He will also provide information on localized and global threats to whale sharks, dive into some of HURC’s results so far, and discuss the future of the organization and other conservation efforts.
“Hawaiʻi Uncharted Research Collective provides a way to couple my background in research and education with my love for the Hawaiian Islands, ocean conservation, and the charismatic whale sharks that inhabit the deep blue waters of the Pacific,” said Harvey. “I am delighted to share the story of HURC and what we have achieved since our founding.”
Whale sharks are found worldwide in tropical seas, preferring open waters where they can be found filtering some of the smallest marine organisms, plankton, with their large mouths.
They are currently listed as “endangered”, mainly due to fishing pressure, accidental catches and collisions with ships. Able to live for over 100 years, very little is known about these animals, especially those in Hawaiian waters. HURC’s research hopes to contribute to worldwide scientific investigations of these mysterious and endangered animals.
“Hawaii is truly a remarkable place for marine wildlife,” said Mike Fogarty, executive director of the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “We are thrilled to share Maria’s work with the general public and to hear how residents and visitors can contribute to local efforts to find and protect these charismatic sharks.”
Admission is free, but prior registration is required. To register, visit https://bit.ly/WhaleSharkWebinar.
About Maria Harvey:
Maria Harvey graduated from the University of Hawaii in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and is currently working on her graduate degree in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Maria’s love for the ocean, education, wilderness and research has taken her all over the world in recent years. Notably, Maria has worked in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and Cape Cod. During her travels, she has worked as a captain, naturalist, expedition guide and assistant researcher, and is currently a level 4 marine animal disentanglement specialist.
His work and studies have encompassed a variety of species, including spinner dolphins, humpback whales, right whales, bottlenose dolphins, leatherback turtles and whale sharks. In recent years, Maria has served as a guest lecturer and distinguished lecturer for private universities and cruise operations, including the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, Georgetown University and UnCruise Adventures.