Ocean Goers Reminded of Rules to Protect Wintering Whales

December 6, 2013, 2:21 PM HST · Updated December 6, 2:22 PM
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First Maui whale sighting of 2013. Photo courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation.

First Maui whale sighting of 2013. Photo courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation.

By Wendy Osher

With the return of the wintering whales to Maui, officials from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary are reminding the public to keep a safe distance from the protected and endangered animals.

The agency issued a reminder regarding federal regulations that prohibit coming within 100 yards of whales when on the water, and 1,000 feet of them when operating an aircraft.

The regulations apply to all ocean users including boaters, paddle boarders, divers, windsurfers and swimmers.

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“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 in an agency press release.

“Collisions with vessels are a major source of injury and death for humpback whales in Hawai‘i,” he said, with agency officials noting that calves are particularly vulnerable to vessel strikes because they are difficult to see and must surface more frequently.

While the humpback whale season in Hawaiʻi typically runs from November through May, agency representatives say the peak occurs between January and March.

According to the HIHW National Marine Sanctuary, more than 10,000 humpbacks visit Hawaiian waters each year to mate and give birth.

Helpful tips on “Being Whale Aware” and “Proper Whale Approach” are published annually by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

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