Government officers have closed shoreline access at Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Maui due to a whale carcass that washed ashore overnight.

Maui County lifeguards and state Department of Land and Natural Resources law enforcement officers posted warning signs on the beach Friday because the carcasses often attract sharks.

It’s the fifth whale carcass to wash ashore in Hawaii since Nov. 11.

A whale carcass, not pictured, washed ashore overnight near this area at Ahihi Kinau on Maui.

Courtesy: DLNR

DLNR asks that beachgoers, swimmers, surfers and others in the ocean avoid whale carcasses on shore or in the ocean for their own safety and to check with lifeguards before entering the water.

The agency noted that humpback whales, dead or alive, are protected by federal and state laws.

Three of the carcasses to wash ashore are confirmed as humpbacks, including one that was towed out of Kailua Bay on Oahu, Nov. 11; one that was left in place in Waianae, Nov. 28, which broke up in five days; and the one that’s being monitored on Maui starting today.

Two others, due to severe decomposition, are presumed to be humpbacks. That includes one spotted Dec. 16 off Molokai that wasn’t accessible for towing or necropsy and one off of the west side of Kauai that drifted out to sea Dec. 26.

Kauai Whale Carcass, 12-27-16 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

Representatives from DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, Maui County and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service were on the scene Friday morning in Maui to assess the situation, according to DLNR.

The carcass washed on shore in a remote cove at Ahihi Kinau, a DLNR release says.

Depending on the carcass’ movements, additional closures or warnings may be imposed at Makena State Park and other areas, the release says. Government officials are in the process of determining the best course of action for disposal. Options include leaving it in place or towing it back out to sea.

Officials are also consulting with Hawaiian cultural experts on appropriate protocols, the release says.

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