Between November and May, thousands of humpback whales migrate annually to the Hawaiian Islands. While residents and visitors alike enjoy viewing humpback whales in their natural habitat, it is important to remember that our presence can affect marine wildlife and habitat.
Marine mammals often engage in important social and behavioral activities that may not be apparent to a casual viewer. Approaching these animals too closely or too quickly may disrupt these behaviors and cause unnecessary stress. Do not attempt to touch, feed or swim with whales, dolphins, sea turtles or other marine wildlife as this could be dangerous for the animal and for you.
Pacific Whale Foundation has developed “Be Whale Aware” and “Be Dolphin Wise” guidelines. These are best practices for ocean users and boaters who wish to view whales and dolphins.
Sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles. As it is illegal to harass them, enjoy them from a distance of at least 10 feet and do not block their path as they surface to breathe. Do not touch, feed or attempt to hold or ride a sea turtle.
Monk seals are a protected species. If you encounter one in the ocean, you should immediately move to a different location. Approaching or attempting to play or swim with them may alter their behavior and their ability to fend for themselves in the wild. Monk seals regularly haul out to rest on beaches and shores. If you see a monk seal on land, please stay at least 50 feet away (150 feet if there is a pup present). Report all sightings of monk seals on land to NOAA’s Marine Mammal Hotline: 1-888-256-9840.
Corals are delicate living organisms. Damaging just one square inch of coral could undo hundreds of years of growth. Refrain from standing on or kicking reefs as this can easily kill the coral. If you plan on going into the water, be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen only and apply at least 20 minutes prior to entering the water.
To report any injured, entangled, stranded or distressed marine life, call NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal (24-hour) Hotline: 1-888-256-9840. Please call immediately and do not attempt to help the animal yourself. Animals under stress can be unpredictable and dangerous.
To report violations of the 100-yard approach rule for humpback whales, or other human disturbance or harassment of marine life, call the NOAA Enforcement (24-hour) Hotline: 1-800-853-1964.
UPDATED 9/24/20 -- We eagerly welcome visitors back to the islands as quarantine restrictions lift Oct. 15 for those following the state’s pre-arrival COVID-19 testing requirements.