Humpback Ocean Count Modified in 2021

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Courtesy photo.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost every normal process of life, and monitoring the state’s oceans for marine species is no exception.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary will be running a modified Ocean Count program for 2021. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the sanctuary is running the program without the normal participation of volunteers. Instead, each site will be monitored by trained site leaders working individually or as a couple. The 2021 Ocean Counts are scheduled for the following Saturdays: Jan. 30, Feb. 27, and March 27.

“Although we will miss all our enthusiastic volunteers helping us out with the counts, we hope to return to our normal Ocean Count program in 2022,” said Allen Tom, sanctuary superintendent.


For more information on the Ocean Count project and how to support, visit

During the modified Ocean Count in 2021, the public is able to participate in “Sanctuary Whale Watchers,” a separate whale sighting project to help the sanctuary locate the whales this season. It allows anyone to submit a humpback whale sighting in Hawaiian waters whenever and/or wherever they see a humpback whale. This program is separate from Ocean Count. To learn more about this opportunity, access the flyer online.

Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Site leaders tally humpback whale 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. Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.


The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation, a similar effort on Maui, will also be running a modified program in 2021. Next year, they will celebrate their fifth annual World Whale Film Festival and will have a virtual film festival screening on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. More information on Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count and World Whale Film Festival can be found at, with additional information at

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, 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 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.

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