600 Volunteers Count Whales in 20th Anniversary Event
By Maui Now Staff
More than 600 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands during the 20th Anniversary Ocean Count conducted by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary .
The count was the final of three conducted for the year during peak whale season. The Sanctuary Ocean Count is held each year on the last Saturday of January, February, and March.
It is separate from the Great Whale Count conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation in Maui waters each year.
The shore-based census provides snapshot data on humpback whales including documentation of surface behavior.
Volunteers made observations from 57 sites across the state, excluding Maui County.
They counted a total of 160 whales during a 15 minute time frame between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m., the most of any time period throughout the day. Agency representatives say the sites that reported the highest average number of humpback whales were predominantly located within sanctuary boundaries.
The sanctuary was established to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.
“For 20 years, the Sanctuary Ocean Count has proven to be a fun volunteer activity for residents and visitors,” said Malia Chow, sanctuary superintendent. “It also provides important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the Hawaiian Islands that we use to better understand and protect this important species.”
Preliminary data detailing whale sightings by site location is available at the following direct LINK.