The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and their habitat in Hawai`i. It is administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). National Marine Sanctuaries protect ocean and Great Lakes areas of national significance. 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.
Outreach and Education
Outreach and education programs and projects are conducted to foster awareness of sanctuary resources and to promote ocean stewardship among Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors. The sanctuary also provides trainings focused on boater safety and workshops on how to interact and view marine animals safely and legally.
The sanctuary conducts and supports humpback whale research that aims to increase scientific knowledge about the North Pacific humpback whale population and its habitat. Research efforts include photo identification, population, birth and mortality rates, and whale behavior.
The Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network is a community based network that was formed in 2002 in an attempt to free endangered humpback whales and other marine animals from life threatening entanglements and at the same time gather valuable information that will help mitigate the issue of marine debris and future entanglements. To date, this team has free 16 whales from life-threatening entanglements and removed more than 6700 ft of gear.
Coordination and Partnership
The sanctuary improves upon existing marine conservation and management efforts of state and federal agencies by providing inter-agency coordination and comprehensive protection through education, science, and outreach support. We also partner with communities to help them address their local resource protection needs (e.g., through signage, education, outreach, technical support, etc.)