OMI Founder Comments on Whale/Boat Collisiions in Hawaii, February 2013.
OMI President and founder, Dr. Marsha Green was interviewed by Gary Kubota, of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, in February 2013, concerning the recent number of vessel and whale collisions occuring in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The article is provided at the link below in .PDF format, courtesy of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, with our gratitude for their permission.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary is a National Sanctuary that was created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai`i. The sanctuary, which lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, constitutes one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats.
In the 15 years that I have been doing research and conservation work with humpback whales off Maui I have seen how important it is to have a vital and active organization that will protect whales and all marine life. That is the purpose of the Ocean Mammal Institute and of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary’s own website states, “The sanctuary was designated to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai`i. “
On the 3rd and 4th of March 2010, the Sanctuary held a meeting starting the process of revising their Management Plan. What concerns me most is that there are five major issues that I feel are critical to the protection of whales and none of them were on the agenda for the meeting. I believe that it is especially important that the public have input now at the beginning of the Management Plan revision process as this will set the stage for what is discussed and included in the final plan.
The 5 issues that I feel are critical and were not on the meeting agenda are:
1. What to do about vessels striking whales in the Sanctuary. In 2009 there were 9 confirmed instances of whales being hit by boats in the Sanctuary.
2. How to address water pollution in the Sanctuary. Currently Maui puts 15 billion gallons of waste a year into coastal waters.
3. Acoustic impacts from boat noise and naval exercises. We know that high intensity noise from sonar and other sources can deafen and kill whales and dolphins or cause them to strand. Noise can cause whales to leave an area or change migration routes and can disrupt mating or nursing. Noise can also cover up vocalizations used for communication and finding mates and can cause stress related effects. For example, Naval sonar caused a live stranding of melon headed whales in Hanalei Bay a few years ago. It is imperative that the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary follow the National Marine Sanctuary Guidelines on noise issued by Dan Basta in Washington in 2007. This National policy statement states that Sanctuaries will use the tools at their disposal to prevent or mitigate human induced acoustic impacts on marine life.
4. The need for more transparency when dead whales are found in the Sanctuary and easier access to necropsy results about the cause of death.
5. The budget—how is taxpayer money being spent in the Sanctuary?
What can you do to help?
Pick your own favorite issue to mention from the list above, mention some that are not on the list or mention all 5 issues. Send your email simultaneously to all 3 of the following (it is important that all 3 names receive the email):
Let’s work together to make the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary a real Sanctuary, not a Sanctuary in name only.
I thank you in advance for caring enough about the protection of whales to take a few minutes out of your day to send your email to all 3 individuals. I also ask that you forward this email to friends and family and ask them to send emails. Lets set a goal of 1000 emails. Your action now at this critical time may well impact the whale population for many years to come.
Marsha L. Green
President / Founder
Ocean Mammal Institute
doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead