The name says it all. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) is home to one of the world’s most important populations of that protected species. Starting at the shorelines of Maui, Kaua’i, O’ahu and the Hawai’i Island’s Kona and Kohala coasts, the Sanctuary protects more than 21,000 humpbacks.
Whale watching by boat and from the shores is a major activity here, but the destination also encourages exploring the resident seals, sea turtles, dolphins, fish, invertebrates and birds. It offers the public the unique opportunity to participate in Ocean Count: monitoring, counting and documenting behavior of humpbacks throughout Hawai’i. Three times yearly, more than 2000 volunteers – including many ecotourists – join in. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation played a major ongoing role in Ocean Count, providing funding and other support, from its first event in 1996. These efforts improve habitats, raise ocean awareness, and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. The whale watching industry, in which the Sanctuary is essential, contributes up to $11 million in total revenue annually, to the adjacent communities, with a total economic impact of nearly $74 million per year.
The Sanctuary is active in research and conservation, with the Whale Disentanglement Response Initiative as its cornerstone. A highly-skilled rescue team undertakes dangerous, complex processes to free mammals from fishing gear and marine debris coming from as far away as 2500 nautical miles.
In 2012, the Foundation created the Hawai’i National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to work with the community and local businesses to enhance sanctuary conservation, research, learning programs and outreach. In addition to helping elevate the role of Ocean Count, it has sponsored Ocean Awareness Training, a program combining classroom learning with hands-on stewardship experiences. More than 1000 participants completed the program.
Related Links :Hawaii Humpback Whale NMS Website