Guests on a charter boat off Kaua’i got an extra surprise during a cruise this week. Hawaii’s first humpback whale of the fall and winter season has been spotted off Kaua’i. Guests and crew of a Holoholo Charters tour boat said they spotted the whale about a mile off Kekaha Sugar Mill on the west side of the island.
Hawaii’s humpback whales spend summers feeding off the shores of Alaska. They return to mate and give birth each winter season, which usually lasts from November through May. The earliest sighting of a humpback was on August 30, 2012. Generally the young – yet independent – so called “adolescent” males are the first to arrive. The journey takes about a month and the whales never stop. Each whale stays in Hawai’i on average about six weeks. Since most of them were born here, Hawai’i is “home” to the giant mammals. They, in turn, visit to eat in Alaska.
The sanctuary says federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water. People operating aircraft may not approach the whales within 1,000 feet.
Humpback whales remain an endangered species, but their numbers have steadily grown in Hawaii waters since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago. Efforts by some are seeking to delist the population in order to loosen restrictions on the fishing industry.