First humpback whale of winter breeding season spotted off Kauai's west side

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HONOLULU — Hawaii's first humpback whale of the fall and winter season has been spotted off Kauai.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary said Wednesday the ocean tour company Holo Holo Charters spotted the whale earlier this week one mile off Kekaha Sugar Mill on Kauai's west side.

Hawaii's humpback whales spend summers feeding off the shores of Alaska. They return to mate and give birth each winter season, which usually lasts from November through May.

The sanctuary says federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water. People operating aircraft may not approach the whales within 1,000 feet.

Humpback whales are an endangered species, but their numbers have steadily grown in Hawaii waters since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.

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