Conservationists urge caution in the water as number of whales injured by boats rise

Courtesy J. Moore – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 15240
Courtesy J. Moore – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 15240(NOAA)
Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 2:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Humpback whale season in Hawaii is only at its midpoint, but so far nine collisions between ocean vessels and whales have been reported.

The Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary reported several whales showing propeller injuries since December. Most of those whales have been young calves and “sub-adults."

“Even though we are halfway through the season, a good number of humpback whales are in the sanctuary and nearby waters,” said Ed Lyman, natural resource management specialist for the sanctuary.

Marine experts are reminding boaters that the ocean is “shared water." They’re asking the public to take extra caution while out in the water in order to protect the endangered species.

Every year, thousands of humpback whales migrate through the Hawaiian islands to breed and nurse their young. The whales are protected in Hawaii and it’s illegal to get within 100 yards of them in the water, whether you’re on a boat, kayak, paddle board or are just swimming.

The humpback whale season typically lasts from November through May, but experts are asking boaters to be cautious of the whales even outside of that time frame, saying a few whales could still be around during other months.

A sanctuary spokesperson suggests having “an extra set of eyes scanning the waters ahead and to the side of a boat” in order to prevent collisions with marine life. They also said slowing down would help reduce the risk of crashing into whales and other animals.

If you come across a hurt or entangled whale, the best thing you can do is keep your distance and tell authorities.

“By locating distressed animals, reporting and providing the initial documentation and assessment on the animal, ocean users are the foundation of our conservation efforts,” said Lyman.

To report an injured animal, call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 1-888-256-9840.

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