HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii tour companies have spotted the first humpback whale of the season in waters off the Big Island.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary says Thursday's sighting may be the earliest documented in recent history.
The sanctuary says ocean recreation tour companies Atlantis Submarines, Captain Zodiac, Kona Diving Company and Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures saw an adult humpback whale surfacing off Honokohau Harbor.
As many as 12,000 of the whales come to Hawaii from waters off Alaska and other northern areas to breed and calve each winter.
The first whales are generally sighted in early October. The season lasts from November through May.
Federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft.
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