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Course Outline

Humpback Whales

Operating Near Humpback Whales is using an ocean area where there are humpback whales.

  • All ocean users, including vessel operators, personal watercraft (PWC) operators, kayakers, paddlers, windsurfers, swimmers, divers, etc., must:
    • Not chase, approach closely, surround, swim with, or attempt to touch humpback whales.
    • Stay at least 100 yards away from humpback whales.
  • Vessel operators, including PWC operators, also should:
    • Stay at least 300 yards from a whale that is in a designated cow/calf area.
    • Approach humpback whales slowly and carefully beside and parallel to them while staying at least 100 yards away when operating in other state waters.
    • Have an observer on board, in addition to the operator, from November through May to watch for whales.
    • Travel at a slow, safe speed in areas where whales may be located.
    • Be prepared to take action immediately to avoid a whale in their path.
      • If a whale approaches your vessel, stop immediately and put the engine in neutral until the whale passes.
      • Go around whales from behind while staying at least 100 yards away.
    • Not chase a whale, approach a whale head-on, cut a whale off from deep water, cross in front of a whale, surround a whale, come between a mother and her calf, or leapfrog or overtake a whale.
    • Keep the time spent viewing the whales to less than 30 minutes.
    • Make sure the whales have a clear escape route.
    • Leave the area cautiously if a whale becomes upset.
    • Make sure no one on the vessel feeds the whales or touches a calf.
  • Sea Turtles

    Sea turtles are protected by federal and state laws.

    • Vessel operators are not required to stay a specific distance away from sea turtles. However, the Hawaii DLNR recommends that vessels stay at least 150 feet away from the turtles, if possible. Operators may be guilty of a federal or state violation if they get close enough to sea turtles such that the turtles or their natural behavior patterns are disturbed.
    • You must not feed, touch, or attempt to ride sea turtles.
    • Many of the rules and guidelines for operating near humpback whales apply to sea turtles also. For more information, visit the NOAA website.
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