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Likely vessel strike injures humpback whale off Maui

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  • COURTESY PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION
                                An injured humpback whale, identified as “Moon,” is likely suffering from blunt force injuries caused by a vessel strike.

    COURTESY PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION

    An injured humpback whale, identified as “Moon,” is likely suffering from blunt force injuries caused by a vessel strike.

  • COURTESY PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION
                                Moon was spotted off the coast of Maui this afternoon.

    COURTESY PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION

    Moon was spotted off the coast of Maui this afternoon.

Wildlife officials are reminding mariners to slow down and be on the lookout for humpback whales during peak migration season after an injured whale was recently reported.

The Pacific Whale Foundation says it was called to assess an injured whale spotted this afternoon about a half-mile off the coast of Olawalu, Maui, within Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary waters.

The foundation says the whale was determined to likely be suffering from blunt force injuries caused by a vessel strike that probably occurred either during its migration to Hawaii or in feeding grounds. Due to severe spinal trauma, the foundation says the whale lost its ability to swim using its tail.

Researchers collected data to assess the whale’s health and injuries, and based on a global database of whale flukes or tails, which each have unique patterns and shapes, determined that this whale is known as “Moon,” and had previously been sighted in northern British Columbia.

Moon was last seen traveling west along Maui’s coast, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Officials remind boaters and mariners to follow best practices around local humpback whales — and to adhere to the 100-yard approach rule as part of the “Go Slow, Whales Below” campaign when thousands of the cetaceans migrate to Hawaii between November and May.

Also, to maintain a recommended maximum speed of 15 knots in waters 100 fathoms (600 feet) or less, as well as to proceed at a recommended maximum approach and departure speed of six knots within 400 yards of a humpback whale.

Sightings of Moon can be reported to the NOAA marine wildlife hotline at 888-256-9840.

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