First Humpback of Season Sighted Off Kaua‘i

October 1, 2019, 5:15 PM HST (Updated October 6, 2019, 12:52 AM)
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Humpback whales appear to have returned to Hawai‘i waters, as one was reportedly spotted off Kaua‘i on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

It’s officially whale season again in Hawai‘i.

Captains aboard Holo Holo Charter’s Adventurer II spotted what appeared to be the first humpback whale of the season about a mile off Ke’e Beach on the northwest coast of Kaua’i, according to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The whale breached three or four times, giving the captains enough time to positively identify the animal as a humpback whale. It was reported to be medium-sized.

Adventurer II is a 41-foot rigid hull inflatable raft out of Hanalei Bay and was headed to Napali Coast with 24 passengers aboard, the release continued. Also nearby was the Sea Breeze with Capt. Pepe operating out of Anini.

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Humpback whale season in Hawai‘i generally runs from November through May, although whales may be encountered in limited numbers during other months, according to information from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Thousands of humpback whales return to Hawaiian waters each year to breed, give birth and nurse their young.

With the arrival of humpback whale season in Hawai’i, officials want to remind ocean users to keep a safe distance from these annual visitors.

Boaters are reminded to post a lookout at all times throughout the year, not just when whales are visiting local waters. An extra set of eyes scanning the waters ahead and to the side of a boat can prevent collisions with marine life, obstructions, divers and other vessels. Slower speeds may also reduce the risk of collisions with the animals.

Humpback whales are protected in Hawai‘i and federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water, as well as a distance of 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft. These and other regulations apply to all ocean users, including vessel operators, kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, swimmers and divers throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

“Ocean users such as those that reported the whale sighting are a great resource in helping monitor the humpback whales in the sanctuary and nearby waters,” said Ed Lyman, Natural Resources Specialist for 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.”

For those who come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, the sanctuary advises they maintain the required safe distance and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

If reporting a suspected approach zone violation, please call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. Additional guidelines and safety tips can be found at online.

The sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawai‘i through the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). The sanctuary works to protect humpback whales through research, education, conservation and stewardship.

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