DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
PETER T. YOUNG, CHAIRPERSON
Phone: (808) 587-0401
Fax: (808) 587-0390
For Immediate Release:
Vessel-Whale Collision Caution Signs Going Up
HONOLULU -- As part of its efforts to promote safe and legal vessel operation during Hawaii’s winter humpback whale season, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Ocean Etiquette Campaign is using signage to educate ocean users.
Signs are being installed at small boat harbors and ramps across the state to warn boaters of vessel-whale collision risks and to remind ocean users about the federal 100-yard humpback whale approach rule.
“We’re entering the peak period for humpback whales in our waters. From now through May all ocean users should remember to take extra precautions to avoid vessel-whale collisions and close approaches,” advises Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.
One vessel-whale collision has already been reported this season, and officials have evidence suggesting at least two more have occurred.
A collision, “self-reported” by the vessel operator, occurred off Kaua‘i in late December.
Reports of two humpbacks observed off Maui with injuries consistent with a vessel strike were also received by NOAA agency partners in late December 2006.
NOAA officials are currently reviewing the facts and circumstances surrounding these incidents.
There were six confirmed vessel-whale collisions reported last season (2005-2006), with at least two resulting in serious injury to whale calves.
Ed Underwood, DLNR Boating and Ocean Recreation administrator, stresses the safety hazard presented by vessel-whale collisions. “Adult humpbacks weigh as much as 45 tons and serious injury can occur to passengers and crew when a vessel strikes these large animals. Mariners should view humpbacks as hazards to navigation, and operate their vessels accordingly,” Underwood said.
Two types of signs are going up at 11 state boating facilities (see images below). One sign warns of the collision risk and the other advises boaters of the federal 100-yard approach rule, which prohibits any ocean user from approaching within 100 yards of any humpback whale (except with special authorization from NOAA).
Sign locations are as follows:
The signs are one component of the Ocean Etiquette Campaign being led by the state (DLNR) office of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with the sanctuary’s federal office (administered by NOAA’s National Ocean Service), NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE).
Other campaign components include, eight boater workshops held recently across the state, new brochures, marine wildlife legal handbooks, stickers, and other outreach products targeting boaters. More information on the campaign is available at: http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/safe_boating.html
Below are some vessel-whale collision avoidance guidelines presented to promote boater safety and whale protection:
Keep a sharp lookout – Vessel operators should always stay vigilant for whales and other collision hazards. Look ahead for “blows” (puffs of mist), dorsal fins, tails, etc. Operators are further advised to post at least one dedicated whale lookout person, in addition to the operator, from November through May.
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