At the end of March, more than 430 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island during the third and final 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 was the first year both counts were coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It also was the first year Pacific Whale Foundation expanded its count on Maui from one month to three.
Combining the peak whale sighting periods from both counts, at total of 109 whales were reported from all participating islands during the final volunteer count day. Combined, volunteers collected data from 54 sites throughout all the main islands.
Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 42 sites March 30, recording 73 whale sightings during the 9-9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites March 30, with 36 whales counted during each of the 10-10:15 and 10:30-10:45 a.m. time periods. A total of 219 whales were seen from Maui throughout the day.
A variety of other species also were spotted during the counts including sea turtles, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, flying fish and an array of sea bird species.
The Sanctuary 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 humpback activity from the shoreline. It is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
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 Hawaii, with 12 shoreline survey sites on 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 take place during peak whale season on 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 will be 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.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters, where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.
With a mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy and inspire environmental stewardship, Pacific Whale Foundation conducts research, education and conservation programs for the communities in which it serves. PWF reaches more than 400,000 individuals each year through its Maui and Australia offices and research projects in Ecuador and Chile.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the official nonprofit 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.