68 whales spotted by volunteers off Hawai‘i Island on last day of Great Whale Count

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Volunteers spot whales from Onekahakaha Beach on the final day of the 2023 Great Whale Count. (Photo credit: Cindy Among-Serrao with NOAA)

A total of 1,121 whales were observed across the state by volunteers for the Great Whale Count on March 25.

The statewide count was coordinated between two nonprofit organizations: the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count — where 320 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu and Hawai‘i islands — and Pacific Whale Foundation with volunteers based in Maui. This is the first year since March 2020 that both programs resumed normal operations.

This is the fifth year that both counts were coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all the main Hawaiian Islands were collected simultaneously. Additionally, both counts take place three times during peak whale season annually on the last Saturday in January, February and March.


Volunteers collected data from 42 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands on March 25. A total of 169 whales were observed 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 Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, and Hawai‘i, Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 30 sites; a total of 117 whales were observed during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

On Maui, Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. A total of 55 whales were observed during the 9-9:15 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.


On Kaua‘i, the total number of whales observed during the day’s count was 273, on O‘ahu, the total was 467, and Hawai‘i 68. The total number for the Great Whale Count on Maui was 313, for a grand total of 1,121 throughout the state. This number may represent duplicate sightings of the same whale by different observers or at different time periods or different locations throughout the day.

Data collected during the Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count combined with other research efforts can help reveal trends in humpback whale occurrence within and amongst whale seasons.

Across the main Hawaiian Islands, weather conditions were primarily clear and sunny skies with calm seas making it ideal for observing whales. Due to the ideal weather conditions a lot of humpback whale activity was observed during the dayʻs count. A variety of other species were also spotted during the count including honu (green sea turtles), naiʻa (spinner dolphins), mālolo (Hawaiian flying fish) and multiple bird species such as ʻiwa (great frigatebird), mōlī (Laysan albatross), kōlea (Pacific golden plover), Nēnē (Hawaiian goose), manu o Kū (white tern), ʻUaʻu kani (wedge-tailed shearwater) and more.


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

Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data may be found at with additional information at

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments