The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary wants to remind boaters to be vigilant during humpback whale season. February is peak whale season in Hawaii and during this time, we need to remind boaters to keep a safe distance from these annual visitors, said Malia Chow, Superintendent, in a Feb. 8 news release.
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. Two confirmed whale-vessel contacts have been reported in Hawaii this season, according to the Sanctuary.
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.
If you spot a distressed animal, please provide that information to the Whale Sanctuary to aid in the organization’s monitoring and conservation efforts.
Humpback whales are an endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Hawaii State Law, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. It’s illegal to approach a humpback whale closer than 100 yards by sea and 1,000 feet by air.
In addition to keeping your distance, the following guidelines are suggested to help reduce vessel-whale collisions: Keep a sharp lookout for whales and other hazards; watch your speed as research shows that speeds of 10 knots or less reduces frequency and injuries of collisions; always stay at the helm and keep your hands on the wheel and the throttle; and as mentioned, keep your distance–once you’ve sighted a whale, stay at least 100 yards away as required by law.
Mariners are asked to report any collisions with whales, or injured or entangled whales to NOAA by calling the 24-hour hotline at 888-256-9840.
Humpback whale season in Hawaii generally runs from November through May, although whales may be encountered in limited numbers during other months.