COURTESY OF HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HUMPBACK WHALE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
This humpback whale calf was struck by a ship on March 9, 2006, between Maalaea Harbor and Molokini. In 2006 and 2007 officials saw humpbacks with serious wounds from vessel strikes, including cuts on the pectoral fin.
Bump with whale is warning for all
A federal agency wants boaters to be especially aware in isle breeding grounds
WAILUKU » A small private vessel had a collision with a whale this week -- the third reported statewide this year compared with six reported in 2007.
The incident took place Tuesday in waters about 2.5 miles off Puunoa Point in West Maui, said Ed Lyman, a federal marine mammal response manager.
Lyman, who works for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said people aboard the vessel felt a thud, then saw the whale.
He said like the two other collisions this year, there appeared to be no injury to the whale and no damage to the vessel.
But he said the incidents will hopefully prompt boaters to keep a lookout for the whales, especially since endangered humpback whales are at the peak of their migration from Alaska to Hawaii.
Hawaii serves as the breeding ground for the humpbacks.
Their newborn calves, able to hold their breaths for only three to five minutes, tend to surface often and stay close to the surface for longer periods than the adults, he said.
"We tell people they got to keep a sharp eye out because these whales are hard to see," Lyman said.
The other two whale collisions, each involving tour vessels, occurred on Jan. 10 about one mile off Waikoloa on the Big Island and on Jan. 27 a mile off Waikiki.
Sanctuary Superintendent Naomi McIntosh said that in 2006 and 2007 officials saw humpbacks with serious wounds from vessel strikes, including cuts on the pectoral fin.
"Our main message to folks this whale season is we are in the thick of it. We do want boaters to be ... cautious on the water," she said.
McIntosh said studies have shown that if vessels are traveling at speeds of 10 knots or less, there is less likelihood of serious injury to the whales and vessels.
She said the number of reported vessel and whale collisions has reached a sustained level for a number of reasons, including an increase in the number of humpback whales.
She said as many as 10,000 humpback whales travel to Hawaii during the season, compared with a little more than 1,000 in 1978.
Whale-vessel collisions can be reported to the federal whale hot line, (888) 256-9840, and the Coast Guard, (800) 552-6458.