More than 600 volunteers on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island gathered on Saturday to count the number of whales spotted from shore at 55 sites, and the numbers seem promising so far.
The annual event was part of the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, and annual Great Whale Count on Maui by the Pacific Whale Foundation. This year, both annual counts are being conducted the same day to ensure data from all the main isles is collected simultaneously.
From 8:30 to 8:45 a.m., volunteers recorded a total of 372 whale sightings, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. That was more than double the number of sightings in January, when volunteers recorded a total of 168 whale sightings.
On Saturday, Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteers collecting data from 43 sites on the isles of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai, sighted a total of 278 whale sightings from 8:30 am to 8:45 a.m. time period. Great Whale Count volunteers on Maui counted 94 whales during the same 15-minute time period Saturday.
Collectively, Great Whale Count volunteers collecting data from 12 sites across Maui sighted 774 whales throughout the day.
Organizers said weather conditions were nearly perfect for viewing whales across majority of the islands, with the exception of rain at some sites on Maui and Hawaii island.
During the count on Maui, a humpback whale mother was spotted conducting “fluke-up feeding” with her calf at the Maalaea site, while a breaching manta ray was seen from the McGregor Point scenic lookout, and a pod of dolphins swam by the Kihei Surfside site.
The Ocean Count, supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, promotes public awareness about humpback whales. During the survey, volunteer participants not only tally humpback whale sightings, but document the animals’ surface behavior. The annual Great Whale Count by the non-profit Pacific Whale Foundation invites volunteers to count whales from shore as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii.
One more count takes place on all four isles the last Saturday of March.
Preliminary data detailing Sanctuary Ocean Count whale sightings by site location are available at this link, with additional information available on the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s website. The Pacific Whale Foundation has undertaken the Great Whale Count for the past 29 years.