Maui News

Sanctuary Running Modified Humpback Whale Count but Public Can Still Help

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The public can participate in the 2021 documentation of humpback whales in Hawaiian waters. Screen shot courtesy: Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Santuary.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary will run a modified Ocean Count program for 2021 without the normal participation of volunteers.

Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, sites will be monitored by trained site leaders working individually or with one person. The 2021 Ocean Counts are scheduled for the following Saturdays: Jan. 30, Feb. 27 and March 27. 

“Although we will miss all our enthusiastic volunteers helping us out with the counts, we hope to return to our normal Ocean Count program in 2022,” Sanctuary Superintendent Allen Tom said. 


For more information on the Ocean Count project and how to provide support, visit:

The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation, a similar effort on Maui, also will be running a modified program in 2021. The 5th annual World Whale Film Festival will be virtual on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. More information on Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count and World Whale Film Festival can be found at with additional information at

During the sanctuary’s modified Ocean Count in 2021, the public can participate in “Sanctuary Whale Watchers,” a separate whale sighting project to help the sanctuary locate the whales this season. It allows anyone to submit a humpback whale sighting in Hawaiian waters whenever and/or wherever they see a humpback whale.  Click here to learn more.


Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Site leaders 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.

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

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.


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