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

For immediate release:  March 28, 2009
Contact:    Christine Brammer
(808) 397-2651 ext. 252 

Over 500 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. The following are the average numbers of whales sighted per 15-minute count period on each of the islands:

            O‘ahu – 2 whales

            Kaua‘i – 2 whales

            Big Island – 1 whale

            Kaho‘olawe – 9 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.

“The Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawaii’s humpback whales and the sanctuary while observing the animals from the shoreline" said Christine Brammer, sanctuary ocean count coordinator. “The sanctuary would like to thank the volunteers that participated in this year's count” 

If you missed your chance to take part in the project this year, mark your calendars now for next season." The annual Sanctuary Ocean Counts project will be held in 2010 on the last Saturday of January, February, and March.  Find out more about the project and view previous Ocean Count results on the sanctuary's website at A whale count on Maui is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

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