World Whale Day Date in the current year: February 18, 2024

World Whale Day World Whale Day is celebrated annually on the third Sunday of February to raise awareness of amazing aquatic creatures, one of which is the largest animal on Earth. The holiday originated in 1980 in Maui, Hawaii.

Whales are aquatic marine mammals in the infraorder Cetacea. It is an informal umbrella term for large cetaceans, i.e. all members of the infraorder except for porpoises and dolphins. Interestingly, the closest relatives of whales outside of the infraorder Cetacea are hippos. Whales are among the largest animals on Earth. They range in size from 8.5 ft (dwarf sperm whale) to 98 ft (blue whale). In fact, the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived.

Like all cetaceans, whales are fully aquatic mammals; they feed, mate, give birth, suckle and raise their young in the water. However, whales cannot breathe in the water like fish because they don’t have gills, so they must surface after staying underwater to take in air. Toothed whales feed on fish and squid, whereas baleen whales have no teeth and feed on krill and plankton.

Whales used to be extensively hunted for their meat, oil, baleen, and ambergris, but today they are protected by international law, and there are a lot of whale conservation initiatives. For example, World Whale Day is the brainchild of Greg Kaufman, the founder of the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF). The PWF is a nonprofit organization that is focused on protecting whales from extinction and conducting education, conservation and research programs for the communities in which it serves. It currently has offices in Maui and Australia and research projects in Chile and Ecuador.

Kaufman held the inaugural World Whale Day on April 22, 1980. He chose its date to coincide with Earth Day. At some point, the date of the celebration has been moved to the third Sunday of February because it is the month when migrating humpback whales return to Maui Nui. Following Kaufman’s passing in 2018, the PWF transformed the celebration of World Whale Day into a series of events to honor his memory, recognize his contribution to whale conservation, and expand the foundation’s reach and impact. This is how the annual Maui Whale Festival was born; it runs throughout the entire month of February.

However, many conservation organizations and concerned individuals from all over the world continue to celebrate World Whale Day on the third Sunday of February. There are a lot of ways to observe this amazing holiday. You can participate in a World Whale Day event near you or organize an event of your own, learn interesting facts about whales, watch a movie featuring these amazing aquatic mammals (for example, Life of Pi, Orca, Whale Rider, Free Willy or In the Heart of the Sea), read Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, take a pledge to recycle more and use less plastic to help preserve the Earth’s oceans, donate to the PWF or another whale conservation organization, or even make a trip to the Maui Whale Festival if you can. And don’t forget to post about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #WorldWhaleDay and #WhaleDay!

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International Observances, Ecological Observances


World Whale Day, international observances, environmental observances, Pacific Whale Foundation, Greg Kaufman