Vessel strike likely killed humpback whale calf found off Oahu, NOAA Fisheries says

A manhunt is underway following a fatal shooting in Waipahu late Sunday.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 11:42 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2022 at 12:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A humpback whale calf found dead off Oahu last week appears to have suffered a traumatic brain injury consistent with a vessel strike, NOAA Fisheries said Monday.

The 12-foot male calf was less than a week old and was nursing.

The animal’s body was found Feb. 6 near the Wailupe Peninsula. NOAA crews, Native Hawaiian practitioners, and others responded to remove the calf and a necropsy was performed.

Officials said the calf showed “clear evidence of traumatic brain injury,” the probable cause of death.

While the animal could have been injured by another whale, “the concussive force was more likely caused by a vessel strike,” NOAA Fisheries said.

Thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters every winter to breed, give birth and nurse their young. Vessel-whale collisions occur annually and can be dangerous to the animals and boaters.

NOAA said humpback whales, particularly calves, are challenging for vessel operators to see. They spend most or all of their time underwater and generally have a low profile when surfacing to breathe.

Here are some tips for preventing vessel strikes:

  • Keep a sharp lookout for whale fins, tails or blows (or puffs of mist)
  • Travel at a slow, safe speed in areas where you may encounter a whale
  • Stay at the helm and be ready to take immediate action if needed
  • If a whale is sighted, stay more than 100 yards away
  • Warn other vessels that whales are in the area

Meanwhile on Monday, the state is offering new guidelines for boat speeds around humpback whales. Officials said vessels should reduce speeds to six knots when within 400 yards of whales.

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