It’s that time of year again when majestic humpback whales can be seen close to shore in Hawaiian waters as they migrate from their feeding grounds off Alaska to breed, calve and nurse their young the warm waters of the islands. Although some whales have already arrived in the area, numbers tend to peak between January and March each year with annual estimates of as many as 12,000 – a spectacle that attracts locals and visitors alike.
The Hawaiian Islands are a dedicated Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii through the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Humpback whales are therefore protected by law (it is forbidden to approach them on or in the water within 100 yards and within 1,000 feet by air), however collisions with vessels do occur and pose a serious risk. Calves are especially vulnerable of course due to their size, making them more difficult to spot. They also surface more frequently than adults to breathe, leaving them exposed to this danger. Fishing gear is also a serious issue with entanglements becoming more and more common and, depending on the type of entanglement, can result in whales starving or experiencing physical injury and infection.
We wish the whales a safe passage and here’s hoping many new calves are spotted this season.