Maui News

WHALE COUNT KEEPS KAHOOLAWE VOLUNTEERS BUSY

February 2, 2009, 2:30 PM HST
* Updated February 2, 2:43 PM
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(By Wendy OSHER © 2009)

Volunteers across the state counted an average of 8 whales every 15 minutes during a statewide count conducted by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. 650 volunteers collected data from 56 sites with the most sightings reported off of Kahoolawe where 14 whales were sighted every 15 minutes for a total of 125 whales counted from the location over a four hour period.

Saturday’s annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count documented sightings and the animals’ surface behavior. Officials say that according to studies, the wintering whale humpback population in Hawaii has been increasing at a rate of approximately 7% annually.

Hawaiian waters provide critical breeding habitat for approximately two-thirds of the north Pacific stock of humpback whales-as the whales travel to the warm waters of Hawaii to mate, calve and nurse their young.

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“The Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawaii’s humpbacks while participating in a monitoring effort. Many volunteers that try out the project come back year after year. It is easy to get hooked on watching Hawaii’s humpbacks,” said Christine Brammer, sanctuary ocean count coordinator.

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Two more Sanctuary Ocean Counts are scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 28 and March 28. Maui was not included in the count, since a separate tally is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

(Photos Courtesy: NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary)

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