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Volunteers sought for whale counts

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Sign-ups have begun for annual humpback whale counts on Oahu, Hawaii island and Kauai.
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This story has been corrected. See below.

LIHUE » The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is starting to register volunteers on Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island for an annual humpback whale count.

The Garden Island newspaper reported Thursday that the project is looking for people to monitor whales from 60 locations statewide.

The counts will take place Jan. 25, Feb. 22 and March 29.

NOAA officials say population counts for humpback whales are still relatively unknown. Some of the endangered whales migrate south each winter from Alaska to breed.

Kauai Program Coordinator Jean Souza of NOAA said people don’t realize how much whale activity they can see from shore.

"Spending four hours actually counting the number of whales and monitoring certain surface behaviors, there is a deeper understanding that comes out of that," Souza said.

Volunteers measure things such as tail slaps, breaches and blows that send water spouting into the air. Researchers also record sounds from the whales.

Each of three counts on Kauai generally draws between 150 and 200 volunteers, Souza said.

The count was named the best federal volunteer program in 2012 by Take Pride in America, a federal program of the U.S. Department of Interior used to promote stewardship of public lands.

NOAA says more than 2,000 volunteers participate in the program yearly. About 150 volunteers counted whales during the first count on Oahu in 1996.

CORRECTION: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration¹s annual humpback whale count will be conducted only on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island. An earlier version of this story that also appeared on Page A19 Friday reported that the program also includes Kahoolawe. For more information about the program, visit http://www.sanctuaryoceancount.org/.

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