NOAA: Humpback whale season in Hawaii underway

  • Three humpback whales glide through the water. (Ed Lyman, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA permit 782-1718/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • A humpback whale mother and calf are seen in Hawaiian waters. (Ed Lyman, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA permit 782-1719/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Humpback whale season in Hawaii is underway.

Each winter and spring, approximately half of the North Pacific humpback whales, representing thousands of animals, journey to the Hawaiian Islands, including sanctuary waters, to breed, give birth, and nurse their young, NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary said Tuesday. While some whales have already arrived, the majority will be in Hawaii between January and March.


Humpback whales in Hawaii are protected by state and federal agencies. Approaching humpback whales when on or in the water within 100 yards or within 1,000 feet by air (including drones) can impact the animals and is illegal.

“Collisions between whales and vessels occur annually, presenting serious risks to boaters as well as the whales,” said Ed Lyman, natural resource specialist for the sanctuary. “Whale calves are particularly vulnerable because they are difficult to see and surface more often.”

NOAA recommends remaining vigilant and going a slow, safe speed based on conditions, vessel type, and other factors that affect detection and avoidance in areas where whales may be present.

Humpback whales can also get entangled in fishing gear, which can result in starvation, physical trauma and infections, and may contribute to vessel strikes since the animals are less mobile.


If you see an injured or entangled marine mammal, keep a safe and legal distance and call NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Hotline at (888) 256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 immediately. To report a vessel coming too close to a whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964 or email

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