A whale at surface level with an island in the background
Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA MMHSRP Permit # 15240

State and federal regulations (the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Hawai‘i thrill craft rule, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act) are in place to protect humpback whales in the sanctuary and surrounding waters. Enforcement of these regulations is coordinated by the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, the state of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, and the NOAA Office of General Counsel.

All sanctuary visitors should be familiar with the 100-yard or close approach rule:
This important regulation prohibits approaching humpback whales by any means within 100 yards (90 m) when on or in the water, and 1,000 feet (300 m) when operating an aircraft. These regulations apply to all ocean users, year-round, within the sanctuary and anywhere within Hawaiian waters and out to 200 nautical miles.

Report any violations of these regulations to the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline, 1-800-853-1964.

National Marine Sanctuary Regulations


Viewing wildlife, including humpback whales, can have negative impacts for the animals if not done correctly. In addition to regulations, guidelines can reduce potential harmful interactions and risk factors.

Boating Guidelines

Responsible Recreation Guidelines