Whale sanctuaries explore partnership


POSTED: Sunday, April 05, 2009

A “;sister sanctuary”; agreement will be explored between the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and sanctuaries at the Komandor Islands Biosphere Reserve in the Russian Aleutian Islands and Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Discussions began last week at the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui within sight of humpback whales reported “;cavorting offshore in their mating grounds.”;

More than 200 marine mammal scientists, sanctuary managers and educators from 40 countries met for the first time to address problems and share solutions for management of the animals, said Naomi McIntosh, superintendent of the Hawaii sanctuary.

“;An incredible amount of information was shared,”; she said by telephone. “;We discovered there were more similarities than differences in terms of issues we're addressing in these protected places.”;

In a comprehensive study of North Pacific humpback whales called SPLASH, “;There was a connection between Hawaii and Russia,”; McIntosh noted. “;A humpback did travel to Russia. We're curious as to what that relationship is.”;

David Mattila, science and rescue coordinator of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and conference coordinator, said in a news release: “;An agreement between the sanctuaries will provide a mechanism to improve conservation and management of the North Pacific humpback whales that migrate between these two critical habitats (in Hawaii and Russia).”;

McIntosh said the SPLASH study showed the recovery of humpback whales in the North Pacific “;isn't happening at the same pace.

“;We are seeing what appears to be a pretty good recovery rate for humpback whales in the Hawaiian Islands,”; she said. About 5,000 to 7,000 humpbacks migrate to Hawaii every winter.




        More information on the conference



The majority of Hawaii's humpback whales travel to the southeast Alaska region, McIntosh said.

“;But the data wasn't showing that kind of recovery rate in the western North Pacific area,”; she added, speculating perhaps not enough data was collected. The three sanctuaries considering a sister relationship possibly could start by collaborating to collect more data, she said.

McIntosh said the conference ended with a “;shared commitment. We are a small community and we are protecting the world's marine mammals and their important habitats.”;