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Humpback Whale Sightings Counted From Big Island Shorelines

February 27, 2022, 4:00 PM HST
* Updated February 27, 3:42 PM
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Site leaders on the Big Island in several locations Saturday, Feb. 26, took part in the second of three coordinated whale counts for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count. (Photos courtesy of National Marine Sanctuary Foundation)

There definitely be humpback whales cruising in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.

According to a news release, 81 trained site leaders collected data from 43 places throughout all the main Hawaiian Islands on Saturday, Feb. 26. A total of 228 whale sightings were recorded during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

On the islands of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, site leaders collected data from 32 locations, with a total of 135 whale sightings recorded during the 9-9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

On Maui, site leaders collected data from 11 locations during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 and 11:45 a.m., with a total of 94 whale sightings during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

The counts are part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation. They were the second of three coordinated whale counts between the two organizations planned this year.

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This is the fourth year both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all the main Hawaiian Islands are collected simultaneously.

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Throughout the day’s counts, there were also several interesting sightings such as:

  • Several humpback whale competition groups.
  • A humpback whale mom teaching its calf to breach and multiple ocean recreation activities.
  • A variety of other species including honu (green sea turtles), naiʻa (spinner dolphins), mālolo (flying fish) and multiple seabird species such as ʻā (red-footed/brown booby), koaʻe ʻula (red-tailed tropicbird), ʻiwa (great frigatebird), mōlī (laysan albatross) and more.

Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, the 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 whale activity from the shorelines of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands.

The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running community science projects.

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Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available online. Additional information is available on the sanctuary’s website.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data can also be found online, with additional information here.

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