Beached whale carcass causing shoreline closures

Warning signs have been posted to watch for sharks

A humpback whale carcass prompted state officials to close shoreline access at Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve in South Maui on Friday morning, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Carcasses often attract sharks so beach warning signs have been put up by Maui County ocean safety officers and officials from the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

Ocean safety officers did a survey of the area for sharks after being notified of the carcass around 8 a.m. Friday, but did not see any sharks for about a two-hour period, a Maui County fire official said.

The carcass washed up on shore and was stuck Friday morning on a shallow reef at a bay known to surfers as “Dumps,” said Maui Fire Department Capt. Paul Haake.

The DLNR added that, depending on the carcass’s movements, additional closures or warnings may be imposed at nearby Makena State Park and other areas.

Shark-sighting signs have been posted at Big Beach, which remained open Friday afternoon, Haake said.

The whale carcass was first reported floating offshore Thursday night, according to the DLNR.

On Friday, DLNR, Maui County officials and representatives from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service were on the scene assessing the situation.

Officials on Friday afternoon were determining the best course of action to dispose of the carcass. Options include leaving it in place or towing it out to sea. Hawaiian cultural experts are being consulted on appropriate protocols.

Beachgoers and ocean users are asked to avoid whale carcasses on shore or in the ocean for safety reasons. People should check with lifeguards before entering the water. Humpback whales, dead or alive, are protected by federal and state marine mammal laws.

Friday’s incident is the fifth humpback carcass report statewide since Nov. 11, according to the DLNR. Carcass sightings have also been reported in Oahu’s Kailua Bay and off West Oahu, west Molokai and the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai’s west side.