The whales are back in force this year; nearly 300 more Humpbacks have been counted in Maui waters this year than were counted last year during the same time period.
More than 100 citizen scientists joined Pacific Whale Foundation researchers February 25 for the Great Whale Count 2017. During the count, 984 humpback whales were spotted, including 544 pods and 88 calves; last year PWF counted 732 whales and 83 calves; we’ll do the math, that is 252 more sightings than were recorded in 2016.
“The results this year suggest we are trending towards Great Whale Count 2011-2015 levels, where over 1,000 animals were sighted,” said PWF Founder and Executive Director Greg Kaufman. “Overall we are encouraged and excited by the number of humpback whales sighted over the past 20 years.”
Also on February 25, more than 590 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii islands for the 2017 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.
This three-times-per-year count keeps track of the number of whale sightings per 15 minute time periods off the shores of the three islands – so you can’t really compare the numbers. For example, according to the Marine Sanctuary report, a total of 174 whale sightings were recorded during the 11:30am-11:45am time period, the most of any time period during the day’s count. And the preliminary report also states that there were more whale sightings on the island of Hawaii compared to last month’s. The detailed results can be found at Sanctuaryoceancount.org/resources.
All in all, as early Whale Watching on Maui has indicated, it looks like a great year to spend time with the majestic Humpbacks. In fact, volunteers on Hawaii at the Ka Lae Ocean Count site had quite a show – they witnessed 23 breaches in just 15 minutes.
Photo courtesy Pacific Whale Foundation