Boaters Reminded to be Vigilant During Humpback Whale Season

February 10, 2016, 8:42 AM HST · Updated February 11, 5:10 PM
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NOAA's proposal to reclassify humpback whales into 14 distinct population segments will offer fisheries managers a more tailored conservation approach. (

Credit: NOAA

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries are reminding boaters to keep a safe distance from humpback whales as the season reaches its peak this month.

The agencies remind the public that vessel-whale collisions can result in death or injury to whales and boaters.

“Whales are now here in large numbers, so it is important for everyone to be extra vigilant for their own safety and for the protection of the whales,” agency representatives said in a statement.

So far, two confirmed whale-vessel contacts have been reported in Hawaiʻi this season.

Tour boat REDLINE out of the Kīhei Boat Ramp gives their tour a thrill with this view of a humpback diving next to the boat. Photo credit: Ellen Raimo.

Tour boat REDLINE out of the Kīhei Boat Ramp gives their tour a thrill with this view of a humpback diving next to the boat. Photo credit: Ellen Raimo.

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Boaters are reminded to post a lookout at all times throughout the year and maintain a “safe” speed. Whale calves are especially vulnerable to vessel strikes because they are difficult to see as they rest just under the surface and surface more frequently, officials said.

The annual humpback whale season in Hawai‘i generally runs from November through May, although whales may be encountered in limited numbers during other months.

Mariners are asked to report any collisions with whales, or injured or entangled whales to NOAA by calling the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-256-9840.

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The agencies provided the following suggested guidelines to help reduce vessel-whale collisions:

  • Keep a Sharp Lookout – Look for whales and other hazards
  • Watch Your Speed – Research shows that speeds of 10 knots or less to reduce frequency and injuries of collisions
  • Stay at the Helm – Always keep your hands on the wheel and the throttle
  • Keep your Distance – Once you’ve sighted a whale, stay at least 100 yards away as required by law

Humpback whales are an endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Hawai‘i State Law, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The public is reminded that it is illegal to approach a humpback whale closer than 100 yards by sea and 1,000 feet by air.

The sanctuary, which is co-managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, was designated to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai‘i.

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