Over 300 humpback whales sighted off Big Island shores on Saturday

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

Approximately 324 humpback whales were counted offshore of Hawai‘i Island during the first Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count of the season.

Volunteers counting humpback whales in Hawaiian Paradise Park on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo credit: George Correa)

Saturday was the first of three coordinated whale counts between Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count from the shores of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Molokaʻi and Hawai‘i Island and the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation from Maui and Lānaʻi.

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

On Saturday, 402 volunteers gathered data statewide from 44 sites across the Hawaiian Islands. A total of 315 whales were observed from 9 to 9:15 a.m., the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.

On the islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Molokaʻi and Hawai‘i, Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 32 sites; a total of 174 whales were observed during the 9 to 9:15 a.m.


On Maui and Lānaʻi, Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30 and 11:50 a.m. A total of 141 whales were observed during the 9 to 9:15 a.m. time period.

On Kaua‘i, the total number of whales observed during the day’s count was 292, on O‘ahu, the total was 604, on Molokaʻi, the total was 30 and on Hawai‘i 324.

The total number for the Great Whale Count on Maui was 821, and on Lānaʻi was 53, for a grand total of 2,124 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.

Volunteers count humpback whale sightings at Kukio Beach on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo credit: Cindy Among-Serraro)

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.


A variety of other species were also spotted during the count including honu (green sea turtles), ʻilioholoikauaua (Hawaiian monk seals), naiʻa (spinner dolphins), mālolo (Hawaiian flying fish) and multiple bird species such as aeʻo (Hawaiian stilts), ʻiwa (great frigatebird), mōlī (Laysan albatross), kōlea (Pacific golden plover), Nēnē (Hawaiian goose) and more.

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 Kaua‘i, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi and Hawai‘i islands. Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation had site leaders count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawai’i, with 12 survey sites along the shoreline of Maui and a new site on the shoreline of Lānaʻi. This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running community science projects.

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


Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data may be found here. Additional information can be found 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.

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