By Wendy Osher
The Pacific Whale Foundation is seeking volunteers to participate in the organization’s Great Whale Count, scheduled to take place from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
The annual event offers “a snapshot look” at the number of whales visiting waters off of Maui at the peak time when whales are present, according to PWF researcher Stephanie Currie.
“This systematic count lets us compare findings from one year to another, and to correlate the findings with other studies of whale density and population off Maui,” said Currie in an agency press release.
During the count, volunteers also record whale behavior, numbers of pods sighted, the presence of calves, and the direction of travel.
An estimated 1,126 humpback whales were observed in Maui waters during last year’s event, with the largest number of sightings observed at Puʻuōlaʻi in South Maui, followed by Papawai Point in Māʻalaea.
In 2013, representatives from the organization estimated that anywhere between 12,000 to 14,000 humpbacks make the trek to Hawaiʻi each year, and projected that the next big count may take place in 2015.
Individuals who are interested in volunteering are advised of a new registration process on line at the PWF volunteer website.
The Great Maui Whale Count is coordinated by Pacific Whale Foundation and is part its Maui Whale Festival.
The festival runs from Feb. 1 to March 31, and includes a series of whale-related events. The festivities kicked off with a Run and Walk for the Whales on Feb. 1st. Other signature events this year include:
- World Whale Day, at Kalama Park, Kīhei on Saturday, Feb. 15, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. This celebration is free and features live music, food, displays and activities.
- Whales Under the Stars on Feb. 14.
- Maui’s Parade of Whales on Feb. 15.
- Great Whale Count Feb. 22 plus free talks and special cruises.