Maui News

118 Sightings Recorded in 15 Minutes During Final Whale Count of 2021

March 29, 2021, 8:40 AM HST
* Updated March 29, 8:41 AM
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Mother and calf, Credit: Ed Lyman, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA permit 782-1719

Trained site leaders gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands during the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count and from Maui during the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation. The coordinated whale count between the two organizations is the last of three planned in 2021.

A total of 68 site leaders collected data from 42 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands on March 27. A total of 118 whale sightings were seen during the 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

  • On the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i, Ocean Count site leaders collected data from 30 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:00 am and 12:15 pm. A total of 83 whale sightings were seen during the 9:30 to 9:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. 
  • On Maui, Great Whale Count site leaders collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. A total of 35 whale sightings were seen during the 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. 

Across the main Hawaiian Islands, weather conditions at majority of sites were either sunny or overcast with calm seas making for good whale viewing conditions. Although a few sites did experience windy conditions creating white caps on the surface of the water which isn’t helpful when viewing whales. A variety of other species were also spotted during the count including honu (green sea turtles), spinner dolphins and multiple sea bird species (Ex. White terns, shearwaters, frigate birds and etc.).

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the sanctuary and Pacific Whale Foundation are running modified programs without the normal participation of volunteers. Instead, each site is monitored by trained site leaders working individually or as a couple.

This is the third year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all the main Hawaiian Islands are collected simultaneously.

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Ocean users are reminded to follow whale watching guidelines provided in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Ocean Etiquette and Pacific Whale Foundation’s Be Whale Aware programs.

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The 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 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.

The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation had site leaders count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawai’i, with 12 survey sites along the shoreline of Maui.

Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season annually on the last Saturdays in January, February, and March.

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Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available online at:  https://oceancount.org/resources/. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data is available here.

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