Be “Whale Aware” When Boating This Season

The first whale sighting of the season happened on Monday September 26, which marked the beginning of the great whale migration which happens every year in Hawaii. Humpback whales travel from across the globe to vacation in Hawaii during the winter months. They are brought here in hopes of finding a mate, and raising their young amongst the warmer, shallow waters that surround Hawaii. As the height of whale season is fast approaching, and as more and more whales are arriving in Hawaii the need for awareness grows. The Pacific Whale Foundation has released a great fact sheet that provides some very useful tips when going out on the water to watch whales, or for any reason, during this time of year. These are the best practices guidelines for operating watercraft around Humpback Whales and Dolphins from the Pacific Whale Foundation: 1. LOOK OUT, WHEN WHALES ARE ABOUT: From December through May, always stay at your helm and post an observer to spot whales while underway. 2. SLOW DOWN, WHALES AROUND: From December through May reduce speed to 15 knots or less in ‘whale waters’ (waters 100 fathoms – 600 feet – in depth or less).       Reduce speeds to 10 knots or less after dark. 3. SEE A BLOW, GO EXTRA SLOW: Reduce your speed to 6 knots or less when within 440 yards of a whale or dolphin group. Avoid abrupt course changes. 4. BRAKE FOR WHALES, STOP YOUR PROP: federal and state laws prohibit approaching humpback whales closer than 100 yards. 5. If your vessel unexpectedly encounters a humpback whale within 100 yards, STOP IMMEDIATELY and allow the whales to pass. 6. AVOID APPROACHING whales and dolphins from the front or from directly behind. Always approach and depart from the side rear, moving in a direction parallel to the direction of the whales. 7. KEEP CLEAR of the whales’ path. Avoid positioning your vessel within 440 yards of the path of traveling whales. 8. BE CAUTIOUS and COURTEOUS: approach areas of known or suspected whale and dolphin activity with extreme caution. Look in all directions before planning your approach or departure. 9. LIMIT YOUR VIEWING with whale groups containing calves to 30 minutes. This will minimize the cumulative impact of many vessels and give consideration to other viewers. 10. MORE THAN THREE FLEE: Never more than three vessels of any size or type should stop to watch a whale or dolphin group. 11. DO NOT SWIM with or FEED whales or dolphins. 12. DO NOT DRIVE through groups of dolphins for the purpose of bow riding. 13. Should dolphins choose to ride the bow wave of your vessel, maintain your heading and speed – AVOID ANY SUDDEN course changes. 14. If a COLLISION OCCURS, immediately call the National Marine Fisheries. Service Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline: 1-888-256-9840. To report a violation of the 100-yard approach rule, or human related disturbance, call NOAA Enforcement: 1-800-853-1964.

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