Maui’s Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation was coordinated to commence on the same day as the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count on Jan. 26. This is the first year that both counts are coordinated on the same days, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously. It is also the first year that Pacific Whale Foundation is expanding their Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.
The annual Great Whale Count brings volunteers together to count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawai‘i, with 12 survey sites on the shoreline of Maui. This event provides a snapshot of trends in relative abundance of whales, and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen-scientist projects. Both counts will take place three times during peak whale season: the last Saturdays in January, February, and March of 2019.
More than 572 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i and Maui islands during the first event of this year’s count. Combined, volunteers collected data from 51 sites across all the main islands. On Maui, the Great Whale Count volunteers collected data from 12 sites during timed intervals between 8:30am and 11:50am. A total of 359 whales were seen throughout the day, with 72 whales counted during the 8:30am to 8:45am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available at Oceancount.org/resources. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count data may be found at Mauiwhalefestival.org/greatwhalecount with additional information at Pacificwhale.org.
Photo courtesy of National Marine Sanctuary Foundation