Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced on Friday, Dec. 30, that access to the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve in South Maui has been closed after a whale carcass was washed ashore in the area.
The carcass is believed to be that of a humpback whale, and it is the fifth one to be beached on the shoreline in recent weeks. Other whale carcasses have been spotted in several areas, including Kauai, West Molokai, West Oahu and Kailua Bay, since November.
Paul Haake, captain of the Maui Fire Department, said the dead whale was washed ashore and became on a shallow reef Friday morning.
Officers from the DLNR and Maui County have conducted a survey of the surrounding area to find out if there are any sharks that might have been attracted to the dead whale, but no predators have been spotted.
Warning signs have been placed around the shoreline where the carcass was found to let people know about the potential dangers of sharks in the water.
Depending on the dead whale's movements, the DLNR may also add more warnings or declare other shoreline closures at Makena State Park and other nearby areas.
Haake said shark warning signs have also been placed at Big Beach, though it remained accessible to beachgoers Friday afternoon.
Whale Carcass On Maui Shoreline
The DLNR is working with officials from Maui County and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the best way to address the beached humpback whale carcass.
Authorities are looking at possibly towing the animal's massive body out to sea or leaving it on the shoreline. They have consulted Hawaiian cultural experts about the appropriate protocols they should be aware of in disposing of the carcass.
As a safety precaution, beachgoers are advised not to approach any dead whales that may get stuck in the ocean or wash ashore for. They should also check with lifeguards in charge of the area before entering the water.
Officials remind the public that humpback whales are protected by state and federal marine mammal laws, regardless whether they are alive or dead.
Another humpback whale carcass was also washed ashore at a Los Angeles County beach in July. Local whale experts discovered entanglement scars on its body, which indicated that it may have been caught in some fishing lines in the past.