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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Marlin spears whale expert off Maui

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

LAHAINA, Maui — A well-known whale researcher was speared by a marlin yesterday while filming an attack by false killer whales about 3 miles off the West Maui coast.

Mark Ferrari, 52, underwent surgery at Maui Memorial Medical Center for a puncture wound that went through his right shoulder, said his wife and research partner Debbie Ferrari.

The couple, who live in Louisiana and visit Maui three months of the year, head the Center for Whale Studies and have been researching Maui's humpback whales since 1975.

Mark Ferrari entered the ocean around 9 a.m. yesterday off Puamana to videotape a pod of false killer whales attacking a 10- to 15-foot marlin, said his wife, who watched from aboard the vessel Hokulani.

"One (whale) would take a bite, then leave. When one of the (whales) attacked, the marlin turned" and went after Ferrari, she said. "The marlin was being attacked and it was going at whoever was there. Mark just happened to be in the wrong place."

Capt. Jim Peckarsky reversed the 26-foot catamaran and helped Ferrari onto the deck. "He stayed conscious, but was in incredible pain and lost a lot of blood," Debbie Ferrari said.

Despite his injury, Ferrari managed to videotape the entire incident.

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) are actually dolphins. Sightings are somewhat unusual in Hawai'i because they prefer the deep ocean.

The Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Explorer whale-watch cruise saw a commotion in the ocean just minutes before the Ferraris arrived in their boat. Capt. Brendan Keaney said there were 50 to 100 false killer whales in the pod, excited and breaching. "They were definitely feeding or chasing or herding something," he said.