Maui News

Hundreds Volunteer to Count Whales Across the Islands

January 26, 2020, 10:39 PM HST
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Whale Season on Maui. PC: courtesy Four Seasons Maui at Wailea.

More than 550 volunteers gathered data from Maui during the Great Whale Count. Others on the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands participated in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.

Volunteers collected data from 53 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands. A total of 279 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

According to organizers, this weekendʻs event was first of three coordinated whale counts between the two organizations in 2020.

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

On Maui, Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 am and 11:50 am. A total of 135 whale sightings were seen during the 9:00-9:15 am 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 volunteers collected data from 41 sites; a total of 148 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30-8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

The annual Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation aims to bring volunteers together to 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.

“This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects,” a press release from the Pacific Whale Foundation read.

“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 humpbackwhales activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands.

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Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season: the last Saturdays in January, February, and March of this year.

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Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data and volunteer sign-up is available here.

Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location and volunteer sign-up are available here.

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