Cooperatove Conservation Project

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

State/Federal Agencies Co-manage Sensitive Humpback Whale Program

Location: Far West Region: Hawaii

Project Summary: Protection of humpback whales is enhanced through a State/Federal management partnership.
Click for Full Size
SPLASH partners present efforts to protect humpback whales. (PHOTO BY NOAA STAFF)
Resource Challenge

Congress authorized the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) in 1992 to: 1) strengthen resource
protection measures, 2) educate the public about regulations that protect humpback whales and enhance enforcement, 3) conduct
research, 4) increase awareness of humpbacks and their habitat, and 5) minimize stakeholder conflicts. Hawaii’s Governor formally
approved the agreement in 1997.

The HIHWNMS is jointly managed by a national sanctuary manager whose program guidance is from the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and a state of Hawaii manager whose guidance comes from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). A Sanctuary Advisory Council offers advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce through the national Sanctuary manager, and deserves much of the credit for the Sanctuary’s initial growth and success.

Examples of Key Partners

Haleakalä National Park, State of Hawaii Dept. of Education, and Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and others; marine science organizations, Marine Mammal Commission, National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Marine Sanctuary Programs; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sanctuary Advisory Council, Keälia Pond National Wildlife Refuge and Kïlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, communities, volunteers, schools, and other non-government organizations.  











Results and Accomplishments

Some of the Sanctuary’s successes include:

  • Assessed the growing frequency of ship/whale collisions and  identified actions to reduce the number of strikes. More than 80 resource managers, scientists, and marine community representatives made recommendations; priority issues are being addressed.

  • Helped launch SPLASH, the most ambitious study of North Pacific humpbacks ever undertaken. Started in 2004, the three year study involves hundreds of researchers from the United States, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, who are studying all known humpback whale habitats from the Bering Sea and Russia south to Costa Rica, and west to Hawaii and Asian tropical waters.

  • Completed research that shows that Hawaii’s migratory population is increasing by 7 percent annually.

  • Sponsored the 2000 Hawaii International Marine Debris Conference to address problems caused by discarded and lost fishing gear.

  • Sponsored monthly lectures and teacher-student workshops. Sanctuary volunteers have also contributed substantively to on site educational activities.

Joint State/Federal management of an important marine conservation program.

Project Contact
Jeffrey Walters, Ph.D.
Sanctuary Co-manager
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale NMS/Department of Land & Natural Resources



To request additions or corrections to this case study email the Administrator