KAHULUI, Maui — Shoreline access at Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Maui has been closed due to a whale carcass on shore.
Carcasses often attract sharks, so beach warning signs were placed Friday by Maui County lifeguards and officers from the the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE).
The latest humpback whale carcass was first reported floating offshore Thursday night, according to a press release.
The carcass washed onshore in a remote cove at Ahihi Kinau.
Depending on its movements, additional closures or warnings may be imposed at Makena State Park and other areas.
Government officials are in the process of determining the best course of action for disposal of the carcass; options include leaving it in place or towing it back out to sea.
Officials are consulting with Hawaiian cultural experts on appropriate protocols.
This is the fifth dead humpback report since Nov. 11, when a carcass was towed out to sea from Kailua Bay, Oahu.
Since then additional carcasses have been reported on West Oahu, West Molokai, and off the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai’s Westside.
Beachgoers and ocean users are asked to avoid whale carcasses on shore or in the ocean for their own safety. They’re encouraged to check with lifeguards before venturing into the water. Humpback whales, dead or alive, are protected by both federal and state marine mammal laws.
While it is assumed all five carcasses spotted since November are humpback whales, determining species was difficult or impossible for two carcasses due to severe decomposition.
Confirmed as humpbacks:
Whale No. 1: Nov. 11, towed out of Kailua Bay, Oahu.
Whale No. 2: Nov. 28, left in place in Waianae, broke up in five days.
Whale No. 5: Dec. 30, being monitored on Maui.
Whale No. 3: Dec. 16, whale off Molokai was not accessible for towing or necropsy.
Whale No. 4: Dec. 26, whale off PMRF, Kauai, never hit shore and drifted out to sea.