Volunteers observe humpback whales from Kauai, Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui

More than 572 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii islands during the first event of the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, and on Maui with the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation.

This is the first year both counts are being coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It also is the first year that Pacific Whale Foundation is expanding its Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.

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Combined, volunteers collected data from 51 sites around all the main islands. A total of 168 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 39 sites on Hawaii Island, Oahu and Kauai on Jan. 26. A total of 96 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites around Maui on Jan. 26 during timed intervals between 8:30-11:50 a.m. A total of 359 whales were seen throughout the day, with 72 whales counted during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

Weather conditions were not ideal for whale viewing at most sites throughout the state because of strong winds and high surf. Those factors made visibility difficult for viewing whales. Although some sites were fortunate to have perfect whale viewing conditions with partly sunny skies. A variety of other species also were spotted during the count, including sea turtles, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, multiple sea bird species and more.

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

Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available at https://oceancount.org/resources/. Additional information is available on Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s website at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data can be found at mauiwhalefestival.org/greatwhalecount/, with additional information at pacificwhale.org.

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