Humpbacks don't hinder commerce

Mac MacDonald
Mac MacDonald
Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even with humpbacks in Honolulu Harbor Thursday, work at the state's main seaport had to keep going.

"We had a barge departing to Kahului. then we had a Horizon Spirit ship that we were assisting, and then we were towing in a disabled vessel," said Mac MacDonald, director maritime operations for Hawaiian Tug and Barge.

He said harbor traffic down-shifted during the humpbacks seven-hour stay, but his company fell only 45 minutes behind schedule.

We didn't really do too much differently except slow down and give the whales some space," he said.

Federal law mandates vessels keep a 100-yard safety zone around humpback whales. But Honolulu Harbor is pretty narrow. And whales don't stay put.

You have vessels moving. You have whales moving. It's a very tough job to ensure that there's not any interaction between the two," U.S. Coast Guard marine mammal coordinator Eric Roberts said.

The responsibility belongs to the Coast Guard and the state's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Officers (DOCARE).

"It's very challenging," DOCARE Oahu director Guy Chang said. "But what helped was everyone was patient and they used good ocean etiquette. And they tried to comply to the 100-yard safety zone."

"They persevered," MacDonald said. "They did a great job and made sure everything kept happening regardless of the situation."

MacDonald said although the whales presence was felt, it wasn't a hindrance to doing business.

The state said the exercise was a good drill.

"This is actually a blessing," Chang said. "It makes everybody more aware that these whales can and will come in near shore."

"There's a lot more whales these days. And there's limited areas for them to take shelter," Roberts said. "It is possible that this will happen more frequently than we've been accustomed to in the past.

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