Maui’s peak tops other islands in first day of whale counts
Nearly 75 percent of whales recorded during peak times off the shorelines of three islands were observed solely off Maui today during the kickoff of the statewide annual humpback whale counts.
Trained site leaders collected data from 45 sites around the main Hawaiian Islands today in a joint effort between the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, according to a news release this afternoon.
The sanctuary’s Ocean Count and the foundation’s Great Whale Count are the first of three coordinated whale counts this year.
Typically a popular volunteer activity, a modified program used only trained site leaders for the first event due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
On Maui, Great Whale Count site leaders collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. A total of 122 whale sightings were seen during the 9 to 9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
On the islands of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi, Ocean Count site leaders collected data from 33 sites. A total of 163 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.
Across all sites, a total of 278 whale sightings were seen during the 9 to 9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
Other species, including honu (green sea turtles), naiʻa (spinner dolphins) and multiple seabird species such as ʻiwa (great frigatebird), mōlī (laysan albatross), were also observed.
The release said the average weather conditions of sunny skies, calm seas and light winds across the state were ideal for viewing whales.
This is the fourth year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all the main Hawaiian Islands are collected simultaneously. The events promote public awareness about humpback whales and provide a snapshot of activity.
Maui’s Great Whale Count is one of the world’s longest-running community science projects.
The public is reminded to follow whale watching guidelines found in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Ocean Etiquette and Pacific Whale Foundation’s Be Whale Aware programs, the release said.