Maui News

191 Whale Sightings in 15 Minutes During Latest Whale Count

March 2, 2020, 7:34 AM HST
* Updated March 2, 8:54 AM
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Ellen Raimo caught this shot of a Canadian visitor and a humpback whale off Maui on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. PC: Ellen Raimo via Robert Raimo.

More than 650 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i Island and Maui Nui during a coordinated whale count conducted by the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Volunteers collected data from 51 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands. A total of 191 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.

During a similar count held in January, 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 that day’s count.

Biologists note that poor visibility likely resulted in an under-estimation of the number of whales present in Maui Nui.

The event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.

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It’s the second of three coordinated whale counts conducted each year between the two organizations.

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

The annual Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation brings 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.

Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season: the last Saturdays in January, February, and March of 2020.

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With a mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy, and to inspire environmental stewardship, Pacific Whale Foundation conducts Research, Education and Conservation programs for the communities in which it serves. Founded by Greg Kaufman in 1980 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the world’s whales from extinction, PWF now operates a social enterprise that offers fee-based programs and services through PacWhale Eco-Adventures to help fund its nonprofit work. Combined with memberships, donations, charitable grants and a remarkable group of dedicated volunteers, PWF now reaches more than 400,000 individuals each year through its Maui and Australia offices and research projects in Ecuador and Chile.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is 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.

Kaena Point West. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Cindy Among-Serrao

Kaena Point West. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Cindy Among-Serrao

Ko Olina. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Cindy Among – Serrao

Lānaʻi lookout. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Paul Hanley

Lanikai. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Gabriele Finn

Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Second Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of 2020. PC: NOAA-Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary / Michelle Nason

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