An estimated 264 volunteers collected data from the shorelines of the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu and Hawai’i during the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary ocean count, the first of three coordinated whale counts in 2023. .
Off Maui, the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count was only able to report from one of 12 designated sites due to ongoing heavy rains. Rain and storms across the state also affected several Ocean Count sites, causing poor visibility or ending the count early. Precautionary measures were taken to ensure the safety of volunteers and site leaders.
Volunteers collected data from 30 sites on the main Hawaiian islands on January 28. A total of 83 whales were observed during the period from 9 to 9:15 am, the most of any time period during the day’s count.
On the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Hawai’i, Ocean Count volunteers collected data from 29 sites; A total of 75 whales were observed during the 9-9:15 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
The only Great Whale Count site on Maui was able to report 41 whales. A total of nine whales were observed during the 10-10:15 am time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.
on Kaua’i, the total number of whales observed during the day’s count was 94, on O’ahu the total was 246 and Hawai’i 206. The total number for the one Great Whale Count site on Maui was 41, for a total of 587 statewide. This number may represent duplicate sightings of the same whale by different observers or at different time periods or at different locations throughout the day.
Data collected during the Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count combined with other research efforts can help reveal trends in humpback whale presence within and between whale seasons.
On the main Hawaiian Islands, weather conditions were less than ideal and made whale watching from shore difficult due to poor visibility caused by rain and high winds. A variety of other species were also observed during the count, including honu (green sea turtles), naiʻa (spinner dolphins), and multiple species of seabirds such as ʻiwa (great frigatebird), mōlī (Laysan albatross), kōlea (golden plover, Pacific), ʻuaʻu kani (wedge-tailed shearwater), koaʻe kea (white-tailed tropicbird), and more.
Ocean Count promotes public awareness of humpback whales, the Hawaiian Islands National Marine Humpback Whale Sanctuary, and shoreline whale-watching opportunities. Site leaders count humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey, which provides a snapshot of humpback whale activity off the coasts of Kaua’i, O’ahu and Hawaii ‘Yo. Ocean Count is supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
The Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count had site leaders count whales from shore as part of a long-term study of humpback whales in Hawaii, with study sites along the Maui coast. This event provides a snapshot of trends in the relative abundance of whales and is one of the longest running community science projects in the world.
Both counts are done three times during peak whale season each year, on the last Saturday of January, February, and March.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters, where they migrate every winter to mate, give birth and nurse their young. young.