In Hawaii, Vessel-Whale Collision Caution Signs Going Up At State Small Boat Harbor Facilities

State of Hawaii, Oct 12, 2007

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).

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