State briefs, March 13

Sanctuary: 9 whale, boat collisions last season

HONOLULU — There were at least nine collisions between humpback whales and boats last season, a marine sanctuary said.

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The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary found the mammals suffered various injuries in the collisions.

Most of the injured whales were young, including calves and sub-adults, sanctuary Natural Resource Management Specialist Ed Lyman said.

Many of the humpback whales, which can weigh up to 40 tons, suffered propeller injuries. Others had superficial injuries and one suffered a gouge that was not life-threatening, Lyman said.

Thousands of humpback whales return to Hawaiian waters each year to breed, give birth and nurse their young.

Humpback whale season in Hawaii generally runs from November through May. The peak normally occurs between January and March, but whales may be encountered in limited numbers beyond those months.

The Maui sanctuary asked boaters to navigate carefully to avoid running into the mammals.

Slower speeds can reduce the risk of collisions with the animals, the sanctuary said.

Federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales. The regulations apply to vessel operators, kayakers, paddle boarders, windsurfers, and swimmers.

Bill proposes state buy, conserve watershed land

HONOLULU — A bill in the Hawaii Senate would earmark $4 million to buy land in a Maui watershed for conservation.

The Na Wai Eha watershed in the West Maui Mountains is being sold in pieces by the Wailuku Water Company.

The watershed provides about 70% of Maui’s drinking water.

The proposal would require matching funds from Maui County, which has considered a purchase for years but county officials have been unable to reach an agreement.

The appraised value of the land was about $11 million two years ago.

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Public testimony on the measure was expected to be heard by the House Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs Wednesday.

Democratic Rep. Troy Hashimoto, who represents the Na Wai Eha region, said more than 4,000 acres of watershed land have already been sold to private owners.

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