Hawaii Humpback whale season is underway, reminds NOAA

Local News

Credit: Ed Lyman, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA permit 782-1718

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Did you see a whale swim by? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s is reminding the public to be aware of humpback whales as they journey back to the islands.

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Each winter and spring, approximately half of the North Pacific humpback whales journey to the island chain to breed, give birth and nurse their young.

While humpback whale season is already underway in Hawaii, the majority of these mammals are expected to arrive between January and March.

Humpback whales in Hawaii are protected by state and federal agencies. NOAA says approaching humpback whales when on or in the water within 100 yards, or within 1,000 feet by air, can impact the animals and is illegal.

People should also be mindful of pollution in the ocean and fishing practices. Humpback whales can get entangled in fishing gear, which can result in starvation, physical trauma and infections and may contribute to vessel strikes since animals are less mobile.  

“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 Hawaiian Island National Marine Sanctuary. “Whale calves are particularly vulnerable because they are difficult to see and surface more often.”

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

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.

If you are reporting a vessel coming too close to a whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964 or email respectwildlife@noaa.gov.

Additional guidelines and safety tips can be found here.

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