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Volunteers count 1,331 whales off Maui

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 7:47 p.m. HST, Feb 23, 2014

Volunteers with the Pacific Whale Foundation were stationed across Maui Sunday and counted 1,331 humpback whales for the annual Great Whale Count which is more than last year's count.

The count was 1,126 last year.

"We are pleased that our Great Whale Count data correlate with other scientific studies, indicating a steadily increase of the population of North Pacific humpback whales," said Greg Kaufman, Executive Director of Pacific Whale Foundation. 

"It is estimated that there are now 23,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific with about 60% (approximately 12,000 to 14,000) coming to Hawaii over the entire season. Large numbers of these whales are found off the coast of Maui, in the area bordered by the islands of Maui, Kaho'olawe, Moloka'i, and Lana'i," he said in a news release.

The 12 counting stations are positioned along Maui's south and western shores, in an area extending from Makena to Kapalua. The sites include the Marriott in Ka'anapali, S-Turns in Kahana, 505 Front Street and Launiupoko in Lahaina, Pacific Whale Foundation's office and Papawai Point in Maalaea, Kihei Surfside near Kamaole III Beach Park and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Offices in Kihei, Polo Beach in Wailea, Pu'u Olai in Makena, and Hookipa Beach Park on Maui's north shore. 

Kaufman's site at Puu Olai recorded the largest number of whale sightings, with 214 whales, including 24 calves. The next highest count was at McGregor Point, with 168 whales counted (360 calves). La'uniupoko Park had the third highest count, with 153 animals (25 calves), according to the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The Great Whale Count is part of the Maui Whale Festival, a series of whale-related events taking place from late January through March.

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