It’s official. Humpback whale season in Hawaii is here, with the first sighting of one off the northwest coast of Kauai.
Captains aboard Holo Holo Charter’s Adventurer II spotted what is believed to be the first humpback whale of the season about a mile off Kee Beach, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The Adventurer II was headed from Hanalei Bay to Napali Coast with 24 passengers aboard. The medium-sized whale breached three to four times, allowing captains to positively identify the animal as a humpback.
A medium-sized whale could indicate it is a sub-adult, a juvenile or male, which is generally smaller than a female, said Ed Lyman, natural resources specialist for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Humpback whale season in Hawaii generally runs November through May, but Oct. 1 is not unusual for the first sighting.
“Oct. 1 is the average of the first sightings for the last 10 years,” Lyman said. “They’re right on the money.”
Each winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian waters to breed, give birth, and nurse their young, according to the sanctuary.
However, there are indications that some have animals lingered on, and so-called first sightings may have been animals that stayed on.
Sanctuary officials remind ocean-users to keep a safe distance from humpback whales, which are protected in Hawaiian waters.
Federal laws prohibit approaching the whales within 100 yards when on the water, and 1,000 feet from an aircraft. These regulations apply to all ocean users, including kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, swimmers and divers.
Report injured or entangled marine mammals to NOAA’s hotline at (888) 256-9840, or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.
For more information and safety tips, go to hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov.