Welcoming the whales Sunday

Humpback whales have returned to their winter playground and Kauai residents and visitors are invited to help welcome them back. 

Organized by Kohola Leo (Whale Voice), the fifth annual “Welcome the Whales Ceremony” will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Kealia Lookout, just north of Kapaa. The free event will include music, poetry and chants.

Kohola Leo Chair Kalasara Setaysha said what started off as a few community members coming together to welcome the whales home has grown significantly. Last year, more than 100 people turned out. 

“It’s open for anyone to share stories,” she said. “It’s always different. They can say a prayer, read a poem.”

The occasion pays homage to the humpback’s seasonal migration from Alaska to Hawaii, a 3,000-mile trip in just over a month, so they can breed and deliver their young in warm tropical waters, according to a release. 

The largest density of whales in Hawaiian waters occur in February and March, however, they begin appearing as early as November.

“This is a community event to join together and celebrate their ancient journey and presence here,” Kohola Leo wrote. “We come together to offer our gratitude, prayers and blessings for their health and well-being and to feel a connection with our cetacean family. This is a co-creational event made special by all those who attend.”

Adult humpbacks grow to up to 60 feet and weigh up to 40 tons. The gray and white mammals have a life span of about 50 years and consume up to 3,000 pounds of food per day.

Kohola Leo is a nonprofit whale advocacy organization with a goal to ensure protection of whales and their ocean world.

Through education and public outreach, the volunteers work to generate concern and action to help protect what they call “intelligent, conscious, sentient and gentle beings” that are endangered and in need of help.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the population of North Pacific humpback has climbed to 20,000 whales since its low-point of fewer than 1,400 whales in 1966. 

Some of the leading issues that affect whale habitats are the threat of entanglement, sonar and acoustic impacts, vessel and propeller strikes, chemical pollution, over fishing, ocean acidification, plastic garbage ingestion and reef destruction.

Those planning to attend Sunday’s event are encouraged to bring blankets and low chairs to sit on, and umbrellas if necessary.

For more information, visit www.whalevoice.org or facebook.com/KoholaLeo. Or contact Kalasara Setaysha at 639-3289 or email Koholaleo@gmail.com.

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