Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

Marine Protected Areas in Hawai'i

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Established 1992


Congress, in consultation with the State of Hawaii, recognized the importance of Hawaii's nearshore waters to humpbacks by designating the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on November 4, 1992 (Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act or Act). The Act identifies the following purposes for the Sanctuary:
  • to protect humpback whales and their habitat within the Sanctuary;
  • to educate and interpret for the public the relationship of humpback whales and the Hawaiian Islands marine environment;
  • to manage human uses of the Sanctuary consistent with the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary Act and the National Marine Sanctuary Act; and
  • to provide for the identification of marine resources and ecosystems of national significance for possible inclusion in the Sanctuary.
The designated boundary includes the area from the high water mark to the 100-fathom (600 feet) isobath around the islands of Maui, Moloka'i, Lana'i; and including Penguin Banks ; the Pailolo Channel; and a small portion off Kilauea Point, Kaua'i. 


Unless authorized by a valid Federal and State research permit it is unlawful for any person to commit, to attempt to commit, to solicit another to commit, or to cause to be committed, within 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) of the Islands of Hawai'i, any of the following acts with respect to humpback whales:
  • Approach by any means, within 100 yards (90 m) of a humpback whale; or
  • Cause a vessel or other object to approach within 100 yards (90 m) of a humpback whale; or
  • Operate any aircraft within 1000 feet (300 m) of any humpback whale; or
  • Disrupt the normal behavior or prior activity of a whale by any other act or omission. A disruption of normal behavior may be manifested by, among other actions on the part of the whale, a rapid change in direction or speed; escape tactics such as prolonged diving, underwater course changes, underwater exhalation, or evasive swimming patterns; interruptions of breeding, nursing, or resting activities, attempts by a whale to shield a calf from a vessel or human observer by tail swishing or by other protective movement; or the abandonment of a previously frequented area.


See also: Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary


Last update: 6/12/2002