National marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers closed to the public; waters remain open

NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are closed to the public while the waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on

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Sanctuary Volunteer Program

The Sanctuary’s goals and objectives cannot be realized without volunteer support.  Current volunteers are members of the community including residents and visitors, students and senior citizens.  They come from many different backgrounds and bring a variety of skills and talents to the Sanctuary.  Dedicated volunteers are one of the Sanctuary’s greatest assets.

Volunteer Program Goals

Provide volunteers with meaningful experiences related to the conservation of humpback whales.

Provide volunteers with opportunities to learn more about Hawai‘i’s marine wildlife and cultural resources.

Provide appropriate recognition for volunteers through appreciation events and awards.

Benefits for the Sanctuary

Thousands of people have volunteered their time over the years to preserve the places important to them. The number of hours and increased commitment from volunteers show that the marine sanctuaries are important to the pubic while they carry out an extremely important purpose of protecting our coastal and marine environments.

  • Volunteer service is unique and is a valuable contribution to the community and the environment.

  • Volunteers are a necessary and vital force for achieving the goals of the marine sanctuary program.

  • In-service training that gives volunteers enhanced understanding of environmental issues makes them persuasive, credible and involved spokespeople for environmental issues.

  • National marine sanctuary volunteers come with a wealth of experience and in some cases significant knowledge about community issues affecting their sanctuary.

Benefits for the Volunteer

Volunteer benefits can vary among individuals. Some broad benefits include:

  • Taking an active role in protecting our natural resources

  • Meeting new people with a common goal

  • Learning new skills

  • Spending time with other like-minded individuals

  • Socializing while volunteering (health studies show that it's healthy!)

  • Conducting field work on the beach or while snorkeling

  • Learning through ongoing training opportunities

  • Receiving the most current information and updates

  • Participating in volunteer appreciation events, activities and programs

  • Gaining valuable experience to add to a resume

Please note that the sanctuary does not currently offer any of the following:
- on-the-water or in-the-water volunteer opportunities
- opportunities for volunteers under the age of 18
- short-term opportunities (6 month preferred minimum)

Also, please note that whale season in Hawai`i occurs between November and May.

Volunteer Opportunities by Island


Sanctuary Volunteer of the Year Recipients
Read more about top sanctuary volunteers and the special recognition the volunteer of the year receives at Capitol Hill Oceans Week.

Messages from Sanctuary Volunteers

"As sanctuary volunteers for over ten years, we take great pride in doing the whale count and never tire of it. It's a fantastic program that keeps track of our beloved humpbacks and we're fortunate to meet beautiful people each year at our site. We also enjoy being involved in other sanctuary outreach programs such as boater education." - Robert & Barbara Billand, Waianae, O`ahu

"The ocean counters and the whales attract a lot of attention from passersby and beach-goers at Poipu Beach Park, and it’s a prime spot for whale education.  For some of us who have found a new calling since retiring, the gratification from sharing with the public what we have learned from whale researchers and sanctuary staff is tremendous.  What better place to teach about whales and caring for the ocean than right here, right now." - Bruce Parsil, Kalaheo, Kaua`i

Messages from Sanctuary Management

Please read letters from sanctuary management about the importance of sanctuary volunteers:

  • Dan Basta, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

  • William Aila, Chairperson of the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources

  • Malia Chow and Elia Herman, Sanctuary Superintendent and State Co-Manager (respectively)


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