732 Humpbacks Tallied in 2016 Great Whale Count
A total of 732 humpback whale sightings were reported during the 2016 Great Whale Count on Maui over the weekend. The largest number of sightings occurred at Puʻu-ōlaʻi in Mākena (153), McGregor Point (117) and Kapalua (76).
Organization representatives say the count is down significantly from last year when more than double the sightings were recorded. In 2015, 1,488 whales were counted, 99 of them calves.
Researchers with the Pacific Whale Foundation speculate that the strong El Nino may be having an effect on whale migration, noting the whales began arriving later this year, and saying that it is likely that the peak of the season has yet to occur.
The Great Whale Count results show there was a higher proportion of calves recorded this year than last year (11% of all sightings compared to 7% of all sightings in 2015). Despite the increase,PWF reports that the number of calf sightings were down, but fell within the normal range.
McGregor Point had the highest percentage of calves: 21% of all whales sighted were calves, followed by Māʻalaea with 15% and Kapalua with 14%.
PWF researchers are encouraged by the overall upward trend in the number of whales sighted since 1995. It is estimated that there are now 23,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific with about 60% (approximately 12,000 to 14,000) coming to Hawaiʻi over the entire season.
The annual count is organized by Pacific Whale Foundation, and is used to supplement results from agency’s field studies. The count, representatives say, provides a long-term snapshot view of whales and a valuable look at Hawaii’s winter whale population.
Citizen scientists counted from 12 locations on Maui’s coastline, using a protocol established by Pacific Whale Foundation. The 12 counting stations are primarily positioned along Maui’s south and western shores, in an area extending from Mākena to Kapalua. The sites include: Kāʻanapali, Kahana, Lahaina, Launiupoko, Māʻalaea, Papawai Point lookout, North Kīhei, South Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena, and Hoʻokipa.