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The Count of Humpback Whales in Hawai‘i Has Begun

January 31, 2021, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated January 30, 9:02 PM
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Volunteer watches for Humpback whales at Laie Point. (PC: Cindy Among-Serrao)

Nearly 200 Humpback whales were seen Saturday morning across the state.

Volunteers from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui gathered for the annual count of Humpback whales. Saturday was the first of three coordinated counts that will be conducted this year between the two organizations.

The next counting events will occur on the last Saturdays in February and March.

Sixty-eight site leaders collected data from 43 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands. A total of 177 whale sightings were seen during the 9 to 9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary volunteers conducted their shore-based census on Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. The Ocean Count site leaders collected data from 31 sites; a total of 125 whale sightings were seen during the 9 to 9:15 a.m.

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On Maui, Great Whale Count site leaders collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. A total of 71 whale sightings were seen during the 10:30 to 10:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

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This is the third year that both counts were coordinated on the same days. Officials say this ensures data from the main Hawaiian Islands is collected simultaneously.

The annual count promotes public awareness about humpback whales and shore-based whale watching opportunities.

According to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the data collected helps experts monitor the population of the animals.

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“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,” according to a press release from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Additionally, the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui had site leaders count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawai’i. This event provides a snapshot of trends in the relative abundance of whales.

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