An abundance of mother/calf humpback whale pairs observed in and around Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary has prompted NOAA to urge ocean users to be mindful of the mammals when traversing the water.
Humpback whale season in Hawaii generally runs from November through May, although whales may be encountered in limited numbers during other months. Thousands of humpback whales return to Hawaiian waters each year to breed, give birth, and nurse their young, according to a press release from NOAA.
With recent reports of multiple mother/calf pairs in Hawaii, ocean users are reminded to keep a safe distance from these annual visitors to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Collisions with vessels are a risk to both the animals and humans.
Boaters are reminded to post a lookout at all times throughout the year, not just when whales are visiting our waters. An extra set of eyes scanning the waters ahead and to the side of a boat can prevent collisions with marine life, obstructions, divers and other vessels. Slower speeds may also reduce the risk of collisions with the animals.
Humpback whales are protected in Hawaii, NOAA said.
Federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales 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.
“Ocean users are a great resource in helping monitor the humpback whales in the sanctuary and nearby waters. By locating distressed animals, reporting and providing the initial documentation and assessment on the animal, ocean users are the foundation of our conservation efforts,” Ed Lyman, natural resources specialist for the sanctuary.
If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, maintain the required safe distance and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840 immediately, or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16. If reporting a suspected approach zone violation, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.