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Hawaii Viewing Guidelines: Overview

Overview | Detailed Guidelines | For Boat Operators | Recognizing Disturbance

You can make a difference when viewing marine wildlife. Please review these guidelines and make the "Code of Conduct" personal practice.

Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Viewing "Code of Conduct"
The following guidelines for viewing whales, dolphins, monk seals and sea turtles in Hawaii have been provided by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, and the State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources. NOAA recommends these viewing guidelines, however, they do not replace Federal or state law. Pursuit and feeding of marine mammals is prohibited by Federal law.

  1. Remain at least 100 yards from humpback whales, and at least 50 yards from other marine mammals (dolphins, other whale species, and Hawaiian monk seals). Do not swim with wild spinner dolphins.
  2. Observe turtles from a distance.
  3. Bring binoculars along on viewing excursions to assure a good view from the recommended viewing distances.
  4. Do not attempt to touch, ride, or feed turtles.
  5. Limit your time observing an animal to 1/2 hour.
  6. Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between boats or shore.
  7. If approached by a marine mammal or turtle while on a boat, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass. Boat movement should be from the rear of the animal.

By being aware of the steps to responsible marine mammal and sea turtle viewing, you can help reduce the potential to inadvertently harm these animals or violate Federal or state law. Together, we can ensure marine wildlife viewing will be as rewarding as it is today for many generations to come.

Notify proper authorities if you encounter sick or stranded animals. Keep your distance; distressed wild animals can be dangerous and should only be handled by trained professionals.

Laws and Marine Mammal Viewing
All whales, dolphins and seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA). Humpback whales, sperm whales, monk seals and sea turtles are further protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) and under Hawaii State Law. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) provides additional protections for humpback whales and their habitat.

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