160 Humpback Whales
A total of 160 humpback whales were counted on the morning of Saturday, March 28 during the 20th anniversary of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.
More than 600 volunteers collected data from 57 sites statewide, and spotted the 160 whales from shore, mostly between 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. What's interesting is that the sites that reported the highest average number of humpback whales were predominately located within sanctuary boundaries.
On Oahu, an average of three humpback whales were counted per 15 minutes. Volunteers at Diamond Head, Lanikai and Turtle Bay Resort were able to see several in one morning. On Kauai, an average of two whales were counted per 15 minutes. On Hawai‘i island, an average of two whales were counted per 15 minutes.
"For 20 years, the Sanctuary Ocean Count has proven to be a fun volunteer activity for residents and visitors," said sanctuary superintendent Malia Chow. "It also provides important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the Hawaiian islands that we use to better understand and protect this important species."
NOAA recently announced a proposal to expand the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which would bring boundaries out an additional 235 square miles around Oahu, Kauai and Niihau, plus include multiple marine species. Here's a summary. Members of the public are invited to submit comments to the agency on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement from now until June 19.
Meetings are scheduled on the proposal throughout the isles in April and May.
The Sanctuary Ocean Count is held each year on the last Saturday of January, February and March. Volunteers who are interested in participating can register online at sanctuaryoceancount.org or call 808-725-5917 on Oahu and Hawaii and 808-246-2860 for Kauai. Volunteers are required to register prior to participating one week prior to the count date.