East Hawaii News

Humpback Whales Observed in Ocean Count Event

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The final Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count took place on Saturday. More than 600 volunteers participated in collecting data for the third event of the annual count.

Each year, the Sanctuary Ocean Count takes place three times during the peak of whale season on the last Saturday of January, February and March from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Volunteers at previously designated locations tally humpback whale sightings from the shore and document behavior of the whales as they surface.

Fifty-seven collection sites throughout the state were used during the March 28 count, including 19 of the usual 21 on the Big Island. Miloli’i Lookout and Ho’okena Beach Park were not utilized during the weekend count.

National Marine Sanctuary officials say that the sites with the highest average of humpback whales sightings were those located within sanctuary boundaries.

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The largest number of whales was observed been between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., when a total of 160 whales collectively throughout the state were observed.

Big Island volunteers experienced rough seas, white caps, and passing squalls, which made visibility an issue.

“For 20 years, the Sanctuary Ocean Count has proven to be a fun volunteer activity for residents and visitors,” said Malia Chow, sanctuary superintendent. “It also provides important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the Hawaiian Islands that we use to better understand and protect this important species.”

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At Big Island count sites, an average of one whale was seen every two minutes. The site with the largest amount of whales observed was Pu’ukohola Heiau National Park, where 73 adult whales and 14 calves were observed throughout the duration of the siting event.

Detailed data from the state-wide count can be found at the Sanctuary Ocean Count website.

Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Sanctuary’s website.

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