Maui Whale Count Tallies 1,126 Humpbacks
By Wendy Osher
An estimated 1,126 humpback whales were observed in Maui waters during the Great Whale Count held over the weekend.
The survey, conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation, utilized more than 100 volunteers who gathered data on the wintering whales from 12 locations across Maui.
The largest number of sightings on Saturday was at Pu’u Olai where 327 whales were counted, including 15 calves. Papawai Point in Ma’alaea came in second with 187 whales counted, and the Pacific Whale Foundation’s office in Ma’alaea was third with 113 whales counted.
The Pacific Whale Foundation says that after reviewing the data, they believe that the peak for the whalewatch season is yet to come on Maui because of the lower number of calves and competition pods recorded.
Pacific Whale Foundation’s founder and Executive Director Greg Kaufman said, “Typically, at the peak of the season, we see mothers and calves inshore, and competition pods beginning to move inshore as well. I think the whales are still arriving to Maui from the south, from the direction of the Big Island, and predict we’ll be seeing greater amounts of nearshore activity in the weeks to come.”
More important, authorities say, is the overall upward trend in the number of whales sighted since 1995. Officials estimate that anywhere between 12,000 to 14,000 humpbacks make the trek to Hawaii each year, and project that the next big count may take place in 2015.
The counting stations extended from Makena to Kapalua and included the following sites:. the Marriott in Ka’anapali; S-Turns in Kahana; 505 Front Street; Launiopoko in Lahaina; Pacific Whale Foundation’s office in Ma’alaea; Papawai Point in Ma’alaea; Kihei Surfside near Kamaole III Beach Park; the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Offices in Kihei; Polo Beach in Wailea; and Pu’u Olai in Makena. The final site was at Ho’okipa Beach Park on Maui’s north shore.
“Some sites experienced gusty trade winds, which kicked up the sea and made it challenging to locate whales. Nonetheless, the count was a success,” reported Dr. Emmanuelle Martinez, senior researcher at Pacific Whale Foundation.
Data from The Great Whale Count are compiled and evaluated by Pacific Whale Foundation’s research team and supplement field studies.