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'Au'au Channel

The 'Au'au

A safe haven for humpback whale mother and calves. 

From December to April each year, the ‘Au‘au Channel, between Maui and Lana‘i becomes an impromptu nursery for humpback whale calves. Because these waters are so important for humpback whales, they are protected as part of the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

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Give them space. . .

Close approaches of any kind, by vessels, kayakers, paddle-boarders or other ocean-users, disturb resting mother and calf pairs.

1) Keep a sharp eye on the lookout - Always stay vigilant for whales and other collision h

Follow these guidelines to ensure your activities don’t disturb humpback whales

Federal law prohibits approaching any humpback whale within 100 yards. These regulations apply to all ocean users, including swimmers, surfers, kayakers and paddle boarders

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The Importance of Rest

Maturing humpback calves spend over 60% of their time at rest. Frequently, the mom rests below while her calf surfaces in once place, breathes a few times then dives back down to join mom. Period of uninterrupted rest are essential for moms and calves. For moms, these resting periods ensure that they will have enough energy reserves left to complete their return migration to the feeding grounds. For young calves, during rest periods, when they can divert all their energetic resources to maximize growth, before leaving the protected ‘Au’au Channel and heading for the feeding grounds. 


Around 30% of calves do not complete this first migration. Either they are taken by predatory, transient Orca, or the mothers run out of energy reserves and can’t maintain lactation through the entire migration. In general though, the biggest calves will have best chances of survival. They’ll have greater breath holding capacity, swimming will require less energy and they are less likely to be targeted by predators. 


So give moms and calves space and let them rest. View them from the shoreline, or from a distance when you’re on the water, especially if you’re in a kayak or on a paddleboard. That way the young calf you’re watching will have the best chance possible of being one of the lucky ones, and making it safely across the waters of the Pacific to their summer feeding grounds.


Visit the Sanctuary Website for more details on the regulations that protect humpback whales during their time in Hawaiian waters. 

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