The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary) is currently a single-species sanctuary whose primary mission is the protection of humpback whales and their habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands. This "condition report" provides a summary of the status of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and their related habitats in the sanctuary, pressures on those resources, current condition and trends, and management responses to the pressures that threaten the health of humpback whales and their habitat.
Condition reports are developed for each site in the National Marine Sanctuary System to provide information on the status and trends of water quality, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources, and the human activities that may affect them. For this particular sanctuary, the references in this report concerning water quality are not necessarily a statement about the overall quality of the water within the sanctuary, but the relationship of the water quality specifically to humpback whales and any potential for the quality of the water to have an adverse affect on humpback whales. This document reports on the status and trends of resources by presenting responses to a set of questions that have been posed to all national marine sanctuaries (Appendix A). It is important to note that the responses to these questions may have been different if resource quality was not directly linked to humpback whales. Condition reports serve as report cards that describe the status of targeted resources within each sanctuary. Resource status is rated on a scale from good to poor, and the timelines used for comparison may vary from topic to topic. Trends in the status of resources are also reported, and are generally based on observed changes in status over the past five years, unless otherwise specified.
Sanctuary staff consulted a working group of experts familiar with the resources and with knowledge of previous and current scientific investigations. Evaluations of status and trends are based on interpretation of quantitative and, when necessary, non-quantitative assessments and the observations of scientists, managers and users. The ratings reflect the collective interpretation of the status of local issues of concern among sanctuary staff and outside experts based on their knowledge and perception of local problems. The final ratings were determined by sanctuary staff. This report has been peer reviewed and complies with the White House Office of Management and Budget's peer review standards as outlined in the Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review.
This is the first attempt to comprehensively describe the status, pressures and trends of resources as they relate to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Additionally, this report helps identify gaps in current monitoring efforts, as well as causal factors that may require monitoring and potential remediation in the years to come. The data discussed will enable us to not only acknowledge prior changes in resource status, but also provide guidance for future management challenges.