Avoidance of whales should reward ferry
Superferry lookouts spotted nearly a dozen whales a day but avoided striking them during its first few days of operation.
Two lookouts aboard the Superferry spotted up to a dozen whales a day in its first days of operation, showing that risks are present and that the ferry is able to avoid them. Precautions appear to be adequate, but more time is needed to determine whether more are needed.
The success of the lookouts aboard the ferry follows a study in Massachusetts by the Whale Center of New England. The study found that a dedicated observer aboard a ferry between Boston and Cape Cod was quicker than the captain to notice approaching whales, which were seen and avoided on four of every 10 trips.
Another fast ferry without dedicated whale observers along the same route did strike a whale, Mason Weinrich, a zoologist and director of the whale center, told the Star-Bulletin's Diana Leone. The sooner the whale is spotted, the more time is gained for the whale and boat to get out of each other's way, he noted.
The Superferry's policies and equipment to avoid whales won praise from Jeff Walters, the state whale sanctuary co-manager, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary manager Naomi McIntosh and Chris Yates, assistant regional administrators of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.
The Superferry can go 44 mph. McIntosh's sanctuary urges all boaters to reduce their speeds to less than 13 mph in shallow waters favored by whales, but Superferry officials will go no slower than 29 mph unless they spot a whale.
Whether the ferry should be allowed to move at that speed will depend on its continued success in avoiding whales. That will be measured by the end of April, concluding the whales' winter stay in Hawaii waters.
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