Nearly 300 humpback whales are swimming throughout Hawaiian waters, according to the annual Great Whale Count. The count is underway in the state, with more than 550 Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count volunteers gathering data from Maui during the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count, and from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i islands during the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count. The count is the first of three coordinated whale counts between the two organizations in 2020.
A total of 279 whale sightings were seen throughout the island chain during the 8:30-8:45am time period on Jan. 26, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. This is the second year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all the main Hawaiian Islands are collected simultaneously; volunteers collected data from 53 sites across all the main Hawaiian Islands.
On Maui specifically, Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites during 15-minute intervals between 8:30am and 11:50am. A total of 135 whale sightings were seen on Maui during the 9:00-9:15am time period, the most of any time period throughout the Maui’s count. On the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i, Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 41 sites; a total of 148 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30-8:45 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count for these islands.
The annual Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation brings volunteers together to 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 relative abundance of whales and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.
Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities. Volunteer participants 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.
Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season: the last Saturdays in January, February, and March of 2020. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data and volunteer sign-up may be found at Mauiwhalefestival.org/greatwhalecount/ with additional information at Pacificwhale.org.