HONOLULU (KHON2) — An injured whale off the coast of Maui has led to a reminder from officials: Hawaii is about to enter humpback season.

Researchers said laws and best practices can help prevent these injuries.

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The Pacific Whale Foundation sent a research vessel and a drone to check out an injured humpback after they received a report from a whale-watching tour company.

“Immediately saw that it was not doing well, wasn’t quite swimming right,” said Jens Currie, Pacific Whale Foundation chief scientist.

Currie said the humpback suffered a traumatic spinal injury that was likely caused by a boat strike. The humpback lost the ability to move its tail due to the injury, Currie said.

“And you can also see from the video that it’s solely relying on its pectoral fins, so you can see those long pectoral fins and basically doing like the equivalent of a breast stroke, if you will, for a humpback whale,” Currie said.

Researchers identified the humpback, known as Moon, and soon discovered it had first been spotted off the coast of British Columbia in September. The injury was fresh when the whale was spotted off of Canada.

“There’s a nice side-by-side image of the whale in B.C. and then whale in Hawaii and it’s deteriorated significantly when you look at body size and health,” Currie said.

KHON2 asked why humpbacks in Moon’s state are not put out of their misery.

“If they’re still swimming, pre-swimming and they haven’t washed up on shore, the protocol is to just let it continue on and then give it its space and let nature take its course,” Currie said.

Federal law requires boaters to stay at least 100 yards away from humpbacks. Vessels are advised to do the following if a whale approaches closer than 100 yards:

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  • Stay calm
  • Put the engine in neutral
  • Leave the area slowly as soon as the whale departs

Humpback whale season in Hawaii typically lasts from mid-December to mid-April.