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PWF: Whale spotted off Maui with “blunt force injuries” likely caused by a vessel strike

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Injured whale off of Olowalu, Maui, Hawaii – Dec. 1, 2022. PC: NOAA/MMPA permit # 18786-06 and 21321

A whale in distress, spotted in West Maui waters last week, suffered from blunt force injuries, likely caused by a vessel strike either on its migration to Hawaiʻi or while in feeding grounds, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation.

PWF researchers responded to a report of the sick whale observed about a half mile off of Olowalu within the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, at around mid-day on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

The whale suffered from severe spinal trauma causing it to lose the ability to swim using its tail, according to the organization.

Injured whale off of Olowalu, Maui, Hawaii – Dec. 1, 2022. PC: NOAA/MMPA permit # 18786-06 and 21321
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In conjunction with HIHWNMS/NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, PWF researchers collected various data to assess the whale’s health and injuries.

The whale was last seen traveling west along Maui’s coast, according to the organization.

Pacific Whale Foundation identified the whale using photo-identification and compared it to a global database of whales hosted on Happywhale.com. This whale is known as “Moon” and has previously been sighted in northern British Columbia, Canada, according to the PWF.

Injured whale off of Olowalu, Maui, Hawaii – Dec. 1, 2022. PC: NOAA/MMPA permit # 18786-06 and 21321
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“Vessel strikes continue to pose a real and imminent threat to local whale populations. Through the Go Slow, Whales Below outreach campaign, Pacific Whale Foundation, Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, ask mariners to be mindful as peak whale season starts and to follow the best practices when operating around local humpback whales,” according to the PWF.

Mariners are asked to adhere to the 100-yard approach rule and to maintain a recommended maximum speed of 15 knots in waters 100 fathoms or less, and proceed at a recommended maximum approach and departure speed of six knots when watching a whale within 400 yards. 

Any sightings of the identified whale can be reported to the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-256-9840. For further information on the current guidelines for boating near whale populations, visit https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/boating-with-whales/.

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