A humpback whale jumps out of the waters off Hawaii in this undated photo. A protest yesterday called the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary a sanctuary in name only. "There's no regulation. There's nothing in the sanctuary to protect the whales," said protest spokeswoman Marsha Green.
Demonstrators urge greater humpback whale protection
An official defends the efforts of the national whale sanctuary
WAILUKU » More than 30 people yesterday held a public demonstration calling for more protection for humpback whales in Hawaiian waters.
The demonstration was held outside the offices of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei.
Protest spokeswoman Marsha Green said the group thinks the idea of a whale sanctuary is great, but that it really is a sanctuary in name only.
"There's no regulation. There's nothing in the sanctuary to protect the whales," said Green, a whale researcher since 1986 and professor at Albright College.
Green, who has served on a federal advisory committee for whales, said there were several whale collisions with vessels in Hawaii waters last year and that the addition of a planned interisland superferry is going to worsen the problem.
She said Hawaii is headed toward becoming like the Canary Islands, where she said there are whale-and-vessel collisions all the time.
"It's just a recipe for disaster, and the sanctuary should be speaking out on this," she said.
Green said sanctuary officials should also be criticizing the Navy's plan to increase submarine sonar monitoring in Hawaiian waters.
Sanctuary manager Naomi McIntosh said her office has taken an active role in protecting the whales and held workshops on Maui in 2003 to discuss whale-vessel collisions.
She said sanctuary officials also have been in talks with superferry officials about the design of the vessel.
McIntosh said the superferry's low draft and smooth bottom is an improvement over a former hydrofoil ferry.
She said it would be difficult to ask the superferry to reduce its speed below 25 knots when other vessels are going faster.
McIntosh said that based on studies, a federal agency has taken the position that vessels running at 13 knots or less have less chance than swifter vessels of inflicting serious injury to whales.
McIntosh said the sanctuary is watching very closely the litigation involving the Navy's proposal to expand its use of sonar technology.
The sanctuary, established in 1994, encompasses about 1,370 square miles, including most waters between Maui and the nearly islands of Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe.
An international ban on killing whales has been in force since the 1960s and their numbers have increased from a few thousand to 3,000 in Hawaii and 6,000 in the North Pacific, according to one scientific estimate.
The sanctuary has a whale rescue team that has freed vessel lines and fishing gear from humpback whales and enforces a rule that bars vessels from approaching within 100 yards of a humpback whale.