KAANAPALI - A dynamic group of whale researchers from Hawaii, Ecuador and Chile, along with the producer of the documentary "Blackfish" and the executive director of the Orca Network, will offer free presentations about their work as part of "Evenings with the Experts" hosted by Pacific Whale Foundation on Thursday and Friday, March 13-14.
"Evenings with the Experts" will also include a free screening of "Blackfish."
The two nights of free presentations and film will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. each evening at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa's Haleakala Ballroom. Admission is free.
Because seating is limited, complimentary advance reservations for seats are available and recommended; call Pacific Whale Foundation at 249-8811, extension 1.
On Thursday, the first night of "Evenings with the Experts," Manny Oteyza, producer of "Blackfish," will present a free screening of this 90-minute documentary and a talk about creating the film.
The movie documents the circumstances leading to the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a renowned SeaWorld trainer, who was killed by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound orca. This film provides a compelling look at the cruelty of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, and it has been instrumental in educating millions of people worldwide about the dark side of using these majestic marine mammals for human entertainment.
The evening will also include a presentation by Howard Garrett, co-founder and executive director of the Orca Network and an activist in the "Free Lolita" campaign.
Lolita appears in the movie "Blackfish." She was captured as a young calf from a population of wild orcas known as the Southern Resident killer whale population. She was sold and shipped to the Miami Seaqaurium and named Lolita. She remains in captivity there 40 years later in a 35-foot by 80-foot by 20-foot concrete tank. Many people believe that the time has come to return her to her family pod.
Garrett has helped to conduct the "Free Lolita" campaign to raise public awareness about returning this whale to the wild.
On Friday, March 14, the focus will be on "Researchers Making a Difference," spotlighting three dynamic scientists from Hawaii, Chile and Ecuador who are studying whales in the wild through research projects funded by Pacific Whale Foundation and using the findings to help protect these animals and their habitats.
Discover the latest developments about whales during their riveting presentations of photos, films, recordings and first-person accounts of working among whales in the wild.
Elsa Cabrera will present her work studying and protecting blue whales in Chile. Blue whales, the world's largest marine mammals, are found off the coast of Chile from January through May. However, much about these endangered and rare animals remains a mystery, including where they breed.
To help protect these whales, Cabrera has been a leader in the fight to stop the construction of thousands of large wind turbines along the shoreline at Mar Brava Beach in Patagonia.
Dr. Cristina Castro will discuss her research of humpback whales and other marine mammals off the coast of Ecuador and her outreach efforts that helped change the poor fishing village of Puerto Lopez into a burgeoning tourist destination.
Dr. Emmanuelle Martinez will describe Pacific Whale Foundation's studies of humpback whales off Maui, as part of a larger goal of preventing vessel-whale collisions.
"We are proud to bring Manny Oteyza and our research scientists from South America to Maui at this amazing time of year, when our visitors and Maui residents are enjoying the presence of the majestic humpback whales off our coasts," said Greg Kaufman, founder and executive director of Pacific Whale Foundation.
"The free presentations and film showing that are part of 'Evenings with the Experts' are certain to inspire and interest anyone who loves whales," he continued.
"We especially hope that our presentation by three female scientists will help to inspire girls around the world to become involved in marine biology and whale research."
In addition to the free presentations, Pacific Whale Foundation is offering two special whalewatch cruises that will feature special guest narration. The two-hour whalewatch cruises will depart from Lahaina Harbor on Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15. Both cruises depart at 11:30 a.m.
On Friday, the special guest speaker on the whalewatch will be Oteyza. He will be accompanied on the microphone by Kaufman, who will add his decades of whale research experience to the narration about the whales that are encountered.
On Saturday, the guest speakers on the whale watch will be Cabrera, Castro, Martinez and Kaufman.
The ticket prices for these whalewatches are $49.95 for adults and $34.95 for children ages 6-12. Whale sightings are guaranteed on each of these cruises; in the very unlikely event that you do not see whales, you'll receive a free "Just a Fluke" ticket to go whale watching again with Pacific Whale Foundation.
For reservations for the cruises, call 249-8811, extension 1, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. Book online at www.pacificwhale.org and save 10 percent.
The "Evenings with the Experts" event is part of the Maui Whale Festival, a series of events offered from February through March to celebrate the presence of the humpback whales in Hawaii. To learn more about the festival, visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org.