Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Condition Report Header

Summary and Findings
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary) was designated to protect the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and its habitat in Hawai'i. The sanctuary enables citizens and government to work collectively on safeguarding humpback whale breeding and calving range in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands more...

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Condition Summary Table
The following table summarizes the "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of this report. The "Questions" column lists 17 questions used to rate the condition and trends for qualities of water, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources as they relate to the sanctuary target resources. The "Rating" column consists of a color, indicating resource condition, and a symbol, indicating trend (see key for definitions). The "Basis for Judgment" column provides a short statement or list of criteria used to justify the rating. The "Description of Findings" column presents the statement that best characterizes resource status, and corresponds to the assigned color rating. The Description of Findings statements are customized for all possible ratings for each question. Please see Appendix A for further clarification of the questions and the Description of Findings statements. The "Response" column provides a summary of existing and proposed responses to pressures on marine resources of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

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  Questions/ Resources Rating Basis For Judgment Description Findings Sanctuary Response
WATER
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality?
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Most areas with problems (e.g., sedimentation) are nearshore and restricted to bays and harbors; therefore, these issues are unlikely to pose threats to humpbacks. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect humpback whales or habitat quality. Humpback whales that visit Hawai'i feed in Alaska and northern British Columbia. Thus, any effect water quality might have on fish stocks in Hawai'i as a food resource is not relevant to humpback whales in Hawai'i.

Regulations prohibit discharging or depositing any material in the state-regulated waters of the sanctuary (up to 3 nautical miles offshore).

The sanctuary is working with agency partners to improve compliance with water quality regulations.

2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
Locations with chronic nutrient enrichment and extensive algal blooms are limited to nearshore waters and may be increasing in extent or severity, but are not known to pose threats to humpbacks. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect humpback whales or habitat quality.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health?
With the exception of occasional closures of some nearshore swimming areas, conditions are not currently believed to consistently adversely affect compatible uses of the sanctuary. Selected conditions that have the potential to affect human health may exist but human impacts have not been reported.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
Numerous activities occur, but management actions have reduced some impacts; therefore, overall levels do not appear to be changing. Some potentially harmful activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on water quality.
HABITAT
5. What is the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how is it changing?
Potential increase in the number of existing and proposed structures related to aquaculture and offshore energy production could remove humpback whale habitat in the water column and along the seafloor. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of humpback whale assemblages, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in humpback whale status. Altering the seabed of the sanctuary is prohibited, unless authorized by permit.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
N/A
There are no biologically structured habitats, such as coral reefs, that appear to be associated with or required by humpback whales in the sanctuary. N/A
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
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The low levels of some contaminants in humpback tissues are believed to be acquired in feeding areas, not in the Hawaiian Islands. Contaminants do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect humpback whales.
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
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Land and ocean-based activities including coastal development, high-speed ocean recreation activities, whale watching, underwater noise, vessel-whale collisions, and military activities. Selected activities have resulted in measurable habitat impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
LIVING RESOURCES
9.What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
N/A
The sanctuary is currently responsible for managing humpback whales and their associated habitat. The issue of biodiversity is not relevant at this time. N/A SPLASH project examines North Pacific humpbacks and human impacts.

Education and outreach create learning opportunities, spread awareness and promote stewardship.

Regulations reduce vessel and aircraft disturbance, and discharges in state-regulated sanctuary waters.

The sanctuary provides training and tools, develops techniques, coordinates whale disentanglements, conducts workshops, and issues avoidance guidelines to reduce ship strike risks.

10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
N/A
Extraction is not relevant to the status of humpback whales and their habitat. N/A
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
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There are no known non-indigenous species that affect humpback whales or their habitats. Non-indigenous species are not suspected or do not appear to affect status of humpback whales.
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Humpback whale population levels are still below historic estimates in the North Pacific, however, recent estimates indicate humpback whale population levels in Hawai'i have increased by 6% annually. Selected key or keystone species are at reduced levels, perhaps precluding full community development and function, but substantial or persistent declines are not expected.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
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Increased reported numbers of vessel collisions and entanglements and associated impacts (e.g., lesions and impairment of movement and other behaviors). The diminished condition of selected key resources may cause a measurable but not severe reduction in ecological function, but recovery is possible.
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
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Increased reported numbers of collisions and entanglements (often including fishing gear encountered elsewhere). Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.
MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
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Gradual loss of maritime archaeological resource integrity due to natural and human impacts including biological, chemical and mechanical weathering; anchor and mooring damage; diver visitation; looting; sedimentation, etc. The diminished condition of selected archaeological resources has reduced, to some extent, their historical, scientific or educational value and may affect the eligibility of some sites for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Gradual loss of maritime archaeological resources due to natural and human impacts including development, dredging, coastal erosion, deterioration, intentional damage, etc.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
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Data on wrecks that may pose hazards are insufficient to determine status or trend. N/A
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
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Increasing diving activity due to technical advances provides greater uncontrolled access. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.

*The responses to the questions found in this report are based primarily on the effects or potential effects of pressures on the sanctuary as they relate to humpback whales and their habitat, which are the current responsibilities of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. With one exception (Question 3), they do not address concerns or resources over which the sanctuary does not have authority or other responsibility.

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