Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary officials advise ocean users to use caution and follow rules to protect whales.
With the arrival of humpback whale season, ocean users are reminded to keep a safe distance as the whales return to the marine sanctuary and adjacent waters. Humpback whale season in Hawaii generally runs November through May, peaking between January and March. More than 10,000 humpback whales winter in Hawaiian waters each year.
Federal regulations prohibit approaching the endangered humpback whales within 100 yards when on the water, and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft. These and other regulations apply to all ocean users, including vessel operators, kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, swimmers and divers throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
“It’s important for everyone to be extra cautious during whale season, for their own safety and the protection of the animals,” said Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the sanctuary. “Collisions with vessels are a major source of injury and death for humpback whales in Hawaii.”
Calves are particularly vulnerable to vessel strikes because they are difficult to see and must surface more frequently.
Humpback whales attract wildlife enthusiasts, and they are a joy to watch.
However, a 45-ton wild animal can pose a significant hazard to ocean users and vessel-whale collisions can result in death or injury to boaters. Humpback whales congregate in ocean waters less than 600 feet deep throughout the main Hawaiian Islands.
Lyman also stressed the importance of ocean users in helping to monitor humpback whales in the sanctuary.
If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, please maintain the required safe distance and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 888-256-9840 immediately, or the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16. If reporting a suspected approach-zone violation, please call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.
Additional guidelines and safety tips can be found at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/explore/whale_guidelines.html.
The sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii through the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
The sanctuary works to protect humpback whales through research, education, conservation and stewardship.