About Town 12-26-13

Ocean users reminded to respect whales, whale census scheduled

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is reminding ocean users to keep a safe distance from humpback whales. More than 10,000 humpback whales are expected to winter in Hawaii between November and May.

Federal regulations prohibit approaching within 100 yards of whales when on the water, and 1,000 feet when operating an aircraft. These and other regulations apply to all ocean users, including vessel operators, kayakers, paddleboarders, windsurfers, swimmers and divers throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

A 45-ton wild animal can pose a significant hazard to ocean users and vessel-whale collisions can result in death or injury for people and whales.

Those who come across an injured or entangled marine mammal should maintain the required distance and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at 888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16. If reporting a suspected approach zone violation, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.

Also, a shore-based whale census will take place Jan. 25, Feb. 22, and March 29. For information visit, hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/involved/ocwelcome.html, or register at sanctuaryoceancount.org. Those interested in being site leaders should email whalevolunteerhawaii@gmail.com or call 268-3087.

Hospital foundation gala raises $250,000

Kona Hospital Foundation will purchase $250,000 worth of new operating room technology for Kona Community Hospital. The funds were raised during the 12th annual “Life, Health and Giving” gala held Nov. 23 at the Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai, which was Kona Hospital Foundation’s most successful fundraiser ever.

The gala included live music, a buffet dinner and silent and live auctions. All auction items were sold, which was another first for the event. Kona Hospital Foundation Chairman Jim Higgins attributed the auctions’ success to the high caliber of items donated for the gala.

Two keynote speakers provided the highlight of the evening. First, Lawrence Peebles shared anecdotes of his 40-year career as a surgeon at Kona Community Hospital from its modest beginnings. The second speaker, Kimo Higgins described his experience as a patient at the hospital following a car accident more than 20 years ago. He credited and thanked Peebles for saving his life.

Since its inception, Kona Hospital Foundation has donated more than five million dollars toward numerous projects that have improved the hospital.

E-cigarettes banned in DOH facilities

Beginning Thursday, the use of electronic smoking devices on all state Department of Health properties, as well as premises occupied by the department, is prohibited any place where smoking tobacco is not allowed.

“While electronic smoking devices are touted for being smoke-free, they have not been proven to be safe,” said Lola Irvin, department tobacco settlement programs manager. “These devices release nicotine and other chemicals and carcinogens into the environment, leaving those around them exposed to the potentially harmful vapor — just like second-hand smoke. Electronic smoking devices also confuse the public who expect a smoke-free environment and erode the strong belief in our Hawaii Smoke-Free Workplace and Public Places Law.”

The electronic smoking device policy was one of the last policies signed by the late Director of Health Loretta J. Fuddy, who died recently after the plane she was on was forced to make a water landing near Molokai.