Maui charter boat's up-close whale encounter raises questions
Shocking video from Maui captures a charter boat's up-close encounter with a whale. It is illegal in Hawai'i for aircraft to get closer than one-thousand feet above a humpback whale, or a person to get within 100 yards if they're in or on the water -- but there are no similar protections for other types of whales.
The footage shows a charter boat so close, it actually bumps into the whale. You can see the moment the whale and boat make contact, as passengers reach over the side to touch the whale.
If the whale is not a humpback, but rather a sperm whale as some have suggested, it is not protected.
Officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources viewed the video and want to remind residents and visitors the importance keeping a respectable distance.
"When you're dealing with 50 ton animals, it always makes sense to give them as much room as you can," said DLNR chair William Aila. "You should give humpback whales in Hawai'i the widest berth possible. The law is you must stay 100 yards away from them, if at all possible. Sometimes, unintentionally, the whale will approach a boat but that's the vessel owner's responsibility because they have the ability to turn their boat around. They have the ability to move in another direction and void the whale. If at all possible, avoid close proximity to these magnificent creatures."
The following statement is from NOAA Fisheries:
- The whale shown in the story is a sperm whale. We believe it is sick and/or injured. We received a reliable report of a sick or injured sperm whale near Molokini several days ago and we believe the whale shown in the story is very likely the same whale.
- For the safety and protection of all concerned, we strongly recommend no one approach this whale, or any other marine mammal, without prior authorization and guidance from NOAA Fisheries.
- The whale in the story weighs at least 30 tons, or approximately the weight of 10 pick-up trucks. Any whale, especially a sick or injured whale like this one, may appear docile, but can react suddenly, without warning, moving its tail or head with surprising force.
- Anyone sighting this whale is advised to keep their distance (at least 150 ft) and call the NOAA Fisheries marine mammal hotline at: 1-888-256-9840.
- NOAA Fisheries reminds the public that every marine mammal, including the sperm whale in the news story, is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The sperm whale is also an endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act. These laws prohibit disturbing or harassing a sperm whale without prior authorization.
- NOAA Fisheries recommends keeping a distance of at least 150 ft from any sperm whale for your safety and the whale's protection.