HONOLULU (KHON2) — With the return of humpback whales, the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is warranting extra care by ocean users.

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Pacific Whale Foundation’s Research team had their first sighting of the season out of Maalaea on Oct. 25.

The whale was said to be seen about five miles off the coast of Kihei in the morning.

PWF’s Research team identified to be a adult male, previously seen in 2019 and is a known “bubble-netter”.

Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary would like to spread awareness about the safety of our ocean friends to keep visitors of the land and sea at peace.

“By following regulations and recommendations, ocean users can reduce their impact on the animals and their habitat and also play an important role by helping monitor humpback whales in sanctuary and nearby waters,” said Ed Lyman, Natural Resource Specialist, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. 

Keep a safe and legal distance of at least 100 yards from whales, and reduce harassment and possible vessel strikes that pose risks to the animals and ocean users alike. 

They said two key best practices are for vessel operators to keep a sharp eye out for whales and reduce vessel speeds, as both have been shown to reduce the risk of hitting a whale, especially calves, which are particularly susceptible to vessel strikes.  

Boaters are asked to maintain a speed of 15 knots or less to minimize the risk of striking a whale.

When directly approaching a whale to watch it, or going away from it, speed should be reduced to six knots or less within 400 yards.

If you see an entangled or injured whale , or any marine mammal for that matter, keep a safe and legal distance and call the statewide NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 immediately. 

To report a vessel coming too close to a whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964, email respectwildlife@noaa.gov, or contact your local DOCARE office by phone, email, or on the DLNRTip app, which can be found here.

Every year, whales travel over 3,500 miles from Alaskan waters to the warmer, more temperate Hawaiian oceans during their annual winter migration.  

More tips and best practices for this whale season can be found here.

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Additional wildlife viewing guidelines, safety tips, and hotlines can be found here.