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Hawaii Viewing Guidelines: Recognizing Disturbance

Overview | Detailed Guidelines | For Boat Operators | Recognizing Disturbance

While viewing marine mammals, you should ensure that your actions do not cause a change in the behavior of the animals you are observing. Since an individual animal's reactions will vary, carefully observe all animals and leave the vicinity if you see the following signs of disturbance.

Whales and Dolphins (Cetaceans)

  • Much of the disturbance for these animals is related to direct pursuit or from underwater sound produced by a vessel's engines and propellers. Ensure that your presence does not disturb them.
  • Cautiously move away if you observe any of the following behaviors:
    • Rapid changes in swimming direction or speed.
    • Erratic swimming patterns.
    • Escape tactics such as prolonged diving, underwater exhalation, underwater course changes, or rapid swimming away from your location at the surface.
    • Female attempting to shield calf with her body or by her movements.
    • Sudden stop in important breeding, nursing, feeding or resting activities after your arrival.

Sea Turtles

  • Sea turtles are found most often in shallow coral reef areas, which are also used by divers and snorkelers. Enjoy their underwater grace and beauty, but do so from a distance.
  • Please remember that sea turtles are relatively slow swimmers
  • Sea Turtles require air to live. If you see them rising to surface, give them room to replenish their air supply. Ensure that your presence does not disturb them.
  • Cautiously move away if you observe any of the following behaviors:
    • Sudden awakening from a sleep-like state on the seafloor.
    • Movement away from the disturbance.
    • Increase in swimming speed.
    • Dive toward deeper water.

Hawaiian Monk Seals

  • Hawaiian monk seals are the only pinniped species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. They are one of the most endangered marine mammal species in the world. Hawaiian monk seals hauled out on sandy beaches are sensitive to human presence.
  • Ensure that your presence does not disturb them; observe them from at least 50 yards. In the ocean, monk seals may exhibit inquisitive behavior.
  • Do not attempt to approach these seals or "play" with them. The seals may misinterpret your actions and cause serious injury. Cautiously swim back to shore or your boat and watch them from a safe vantage.
  • Do not attempt to push seals back in the water.
  • Please remember to keep your pet on a leash at all times when in the presence of monk seals
  • Cautiously move away if you observe any of the following behaviors:
    • Rapid movement away from the disturbance and toward the water.
    • Sudden awakening from sleep on the beach.
    • Female attempting to shield a pup with her body or by her movements.
    • Vocalization or "growling" at the disturbance.
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