NOAA Spots First Humpback Whale of the Season
The first humpback whale of the season was spotted off Ni’ihau as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Hu’ialakai traveled back to the main Hawaiian Islands after being in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
“Humpback whales remind us that this is one contiguous archipelago,” said Randall Kosaki Ph.D., NOAA’s deputy superintendent of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and chief scientist of the expedition. “These whales seamlessly utilize both the NWHI and the inhabited Hawaiian islands.”
A few days after the initial sighting, an adult humpback whale was reported near the Pacific Missile Range Facility off the southwest coast of Kaua’i by Captain Sterling Silva, who was aboard the Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures.
According to Captain Silva, the whale breaches conducted a pectoral slap and dove.
Humpback whales can usually be spotted in Hawai’i from November through May, but are not uncommon in limited numbers during other months.
Each year, over 10,000 humpback whales travel into Hawaiian waters every winter.
“It’s important for everyone to be extra vigilant during whale season, for their own safety and the protection of the animals,” said Malia Chow, Superintendent of the sanctuary.
NOAA reminds the public to keep a safe distance from humpback whales who visit the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Boaters should also use caution, not just during the peak of the whale visits, but all year long.
As an endangered species, federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when in the water and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft.
Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the sanctuary, said ocean users such as those that reported the whale sightings are a “great resource” in helping monitor humpback whales in the sanctuary.
“By locating distressed animals, reporting, and providing the initial documentation and assessment on the animal, ocean users are the foundation of our conservation efforts,” Lyman said.
Individuals who come across an injured or entangled marine mammal should maintain safe distance and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840.
Reports of suspected approach zone violations should be called in to the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 835-1964.