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Volunteers Count Whales in NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

For immediate release:  January 31, 2009
Contact:    Christine Brammer
(808) 397-2651 ext. 252 

Over 650 volunteers gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai, the Big Island, and Kahoolawe for Saturday’s annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count. Participants tallied humpback whale sightings and documented the animals’ surface behavior during the survey. The sanctuary, which is managed by NOAA, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve, and nurse their young.

Volunteers collected data from 56 sites statewide. Every 15 minutes, an average of 8 whales were counted per site statewide. The following are the average numbers of whales sighted per 15-minute count period on each of the islands:

            O‘ahu – 4 whales

            Kaua‘i – 8 whales

            Big Island – 5 whales

            Kaho‘olawe – 14 whales

Scientific studies have shown that Hawaii’s humpback whale population has been increasing at an annual rate of approximately seven percent. Over time, data from the Sanctuary Ocean Count can be used to corroborate these findings. Hawaiian waters provide critical breeding habitat for approximately two-thirds of the north Pacific stock of humpback whales.

“It was great to see so many new volunteers taking part in this month’s count,” said Christine Brammer, sanctuary ocean count coordinator. “The Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawaii’s humpbacks while participating in a monitoring effort. Many volunteers that try out the project come back year after year. It is easy to get hooked on watching Hawaii’s humpbacks.” 

Weather conditions were excellent for viewing humpback whales around the state.  Other marine wildlife seen during the Ocean Count included Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, spinner dolphins, and a variety of sea birds.

Two more Sanctuary Ocean Counts are scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 28 and March 28.  For more information on becoming a Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer, contact the appropriate sanctuary office. On the Big Island, call 1-888-55-WHALE ext. 253. On Oahu, call 397-2651 ext. 253. On Kauai, call 1-808-246-2860. A whale count on Maui is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit http://www.noaa.gov.

On the Web:
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary:
http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov


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