774 Whales Spotted Off Maui in Great Whale Count

February 25, 2019, 7:35 AM HST · Updated February 25, 7:35 AM
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More than 612 volunteers gathered data from shores across the state for the second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count conducted by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Combined, volunteers collected data from 55 sites across Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i and Maui. A total of 365 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2019.

On Maui, volunteers collected data from 12 sites on Saturday under the guidance of the Pacific Whale Foundation between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. A total of 774 whales were seen throughout the day off Maui, with 94 whales counted during the peak time between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

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    During the count on Maui, a humpback whale mother was spotted conducting “fluke-up feeding” with her calf at the Māʻalaea site, a breaching manta ray was seen from the McGregor Point scenic lookout, and a pod of dolphins swam by the Kīhei Surfside site.

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    The annual Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation brings volunteers together to count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii, with 12 survey sites along the shoreline of Maui. This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.

    Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Volunteer participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey, which provides a snapshot of humpback whales activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands. Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

    This is the first year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It is also the first year that Pacific Whale Foundation is expanding their Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.

    A third Ocean Whale Count will be conducted on the last Saturday in March.

    Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available online. Additional information will be available on Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s website. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data may be found online with additional information at pacificwhale.org.

    The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.

    With a mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy, and to inspire environmental stewardship, Pacific Whale Foundation conducts Research, Education and Conservation programs for the communities in which it serves. Founded by Greg Kaufman in 1980 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the world’s whales from extinction, PWF now operates a social enterprise that offers fee-based programs and services through PacWhale Eco-Adventures to help fund its nonprofit work.

    The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports national marine sanctuaries by protecting species, conserving ecosystems and preserving America’s maritime heritage through on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs and scientific research and exploration.

    Great Whale Count 2018. PC: Pacific Whale Foundation.

    Great Whale Count 2018 at Puʻuōlaʻi. PC: Pacific Whale Foundation.

    Great Whale Count Maui 2016. Photo credit: Pacific Whale Foundation.

    Great Whale Count Maui 2016. Photo credit: Pacific Whale Foundation.

    Humpback whale breaching about a mile offshore from Mākena, Maui. (1.4.18) PC: file by Ellen Raimo

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