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Humpback whale sanctuary seeks volunteers for 2023 Ocean Count

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Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is seeking volunteers for its 2023 Ocean Count. Photo Courtesy: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is seeking volunteers for the 2023 Sanctuary Ocean Count scheduled for Jan. 28, Feb. 25 and March 25.

The Pacific Whale Foundation conducts the Great Whale Count on Maui, on the same dates as Sanctuary Ocean Count. More information can be found here.

This is the first year since March 2020 that both programs will be resuming volunteer  operations.


Participants in the annual survey tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior, which provides a snapshot of humpback whale activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and the Big Island.

The whale sanctuary’s boundaries include a portion of the North Shore of Kaua‘i, which has a total of 12 active survey locations located on all sides of the island.

Breaching adult humpback whale; Pacific Whale Foundation|Research activities conducted under NMFS MMPA Permit No. 21321

The sanctuary touches nearly all of the major Hawaiian Islands, which are the principal winter breeding grounds for the North Pacific humpback whale population. Thousands of humpback whales journey to the islands each winter and spring to breed, give birth and nurse their offspring, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.


The NOAA office oversees a total of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two national marine monuments, including Papahānaumokuākea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers must register in advance, and participation is limited for each Sanctuary Ocean Count site. Volunteer registration is now live. To register and receive more information on Sanctuary Ocean Count, visit

The annual Sanctuary Ocean Count has promoted public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities since 1996. The Sanctuary Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

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