NOAA says mother and calf pairs abundant

LIHU’E – It’s whale season and boaters are advised to be mindful of their existence and keep their distance.

Reports of mother and calf pairs in the waters around Hawaii have been on the rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA advised caution in a recent news release about the increase in sightings, reminding boaters to stay vigilant and keep a safe distance.

Reports from local tour boats reflect NOAA’s statement, like Captain Anthony Coscia of Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures, who says they’re seeing more whales this season than usual.

“Whale season appears to be in full swing and the whale population here on the west side of Kaua‘i seems to be very happy and healthy thus far,” Coscia said Tuesday.

Coscia says, activity has changed, too, from only seeing a few spouts during a trip to seeing many different groups of active whales.

Holo Holo Charters Lead Captain Wendell Merritt said he’s been seeing an uptick in whales from his boat, too.

“Slow start to the season, but as of the last couple of weeks, there has been abundance,” Merritt said Tuesday.

Every day is different, he says, but passengers generally get a show when they’re cruising along the Napali Coast. Recently, Merritt said they had a memorable encounter with a pod in that area.

“There was a humpback whale getting into the groove by showing off some tail slaps to the tune of the song, YMCA,” Merritt said. “What perfect timing; we couldn’t miss the opportunity to record such an amazing moment. I had to give the recording to our GM.”

Humpback whale season in Hawai‘i generally runs from November through May, although whales may be encountered in limited numbers during other months. Thousands of humpback whales return to Hawaiian waters each year to breed, give birth, and nurse their young.

With recent reports of multiple mother and calf pairs in Hawai‘i, ocean users are reminded to keep a safe distance from these annual visitors to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Collisions with vessels are a risk to both the animals and humans.

NOAA reminds boaters are reminded to post a lookout at all times throughout the year, not just when whales are visiting our waters. An extra set of eyes scanning the waters ahead and to the side of a boat can prevent collisions with marine life, obstructions, divers and other vessels. Slower speeds may also reduce the risk of collisions with the animals.

Humpback whales are protected in Hawai‘i. Federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water, and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft. These and other regulations apply to all ocean users, including vessel operators, kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, swimmers and divers throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Coscia said he and his crew follow that rule and stay at least 100 yards away from the animals, a practice most tour companies incorporate into their routines.

“We are having whale sightings every trip at this point and we have seen numerous calves around the west side of the island,” Coscia said. “(We) have been lucky to see quite a bit of breaching this week.”

The community and visitors are encouraged to help with locating distressed animals and providing an assessment for officials to use, officials like Ed Lyman, natural resources specialist for the sanctuary. Lyman heads up entanglement response and is always appreciative of reported distressed whale sightings from the on-water community.

“Ocean users are a great resource in helping monitor the humpback whales in the sanctuary and nearby waters,” Lyman said. “By locating distressed animals, reporting and providing the initial documentation and assessment on the animal, ocean users are the foundation of our conservation efforts.”

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