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Whales in abundance during annual coastal survey on 4 Hawaiian islands

  • COURTESY PAUL HASLEY / HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HUMPBACK WHALE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
                                A whale was spotted from the Lanai Lookout on Oahu during today’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.

    COURTESY PAUL HASLEY / HAWAIIAN ISLANDS HUMPBACK WHALE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY

    A whale was spotted from the Lanai Lookout on Oahu during today’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.

Humpback whales are everywhere in Hawaii during the winter months, if you know where to look.

In fact, 278 whale sightings were reported across the state between 9 and 9:15 a.m. today during the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count and the Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui. It was the highest number of sightings of any time period throughout the day’s survey.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the two groups conducted the annual count, held during peak whale season on the last Saturday of the month in January, February and March, without its usual volunteers. Instead, 87 trained site leaders working individually or in pairs gathered data from 45 sites on Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii island and Maui, according to a news release.

Ocean Count observers on Hawaii island, Oahu and Kauai collected data from 33 sites, reporting their highest tally of 163 whale sightings from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. On Maui, Great Whale Count site leaders collected data from 12 sites, reporting 122 whale sightings from 9 to 9:15 a.m.

The observers also document whale behavior at the surface to provide a snapshot of the marine mammals’ activity.

Conditions were ideal for viewing whales, the release said, and a variety of other species also were spotted, including green sea turtles, spinner dolphins and multiple seabird species.

The Ocean Count, supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, promotes public awareness about humpback whales, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and shore-based whale-watching opportunities, the release said.

The Great Whale Count by PWF is part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii and is one of the world’s longest-running community science projects.

Preliminary data from today is available at oceancount.org/resources/ and pacificwhale.org/research/community-science/.

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