Volunteers needed for whale count

Officials at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary are looking for volunteers for the 2006 Ocean Count, to help them observe humpbacks from the shore and record observations.

The important data collected enables sanctuary officials to study whale population, distribution, and behavioral trends at different shore sites over the course of the whale season, a spokesperson said.

The Sanctuary Ocean Count will be held on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and the Big Island, on Saturday, Jan. 28, Saturday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, March 25, at selected sites, from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

To register, volunteers may call 246-2860.

Registration is necessary to join the January, February and March fun and educational, shore-based surveys of Hawai‘i’s humpback whales, organizers said.

Volunteers can choose to be either a site leader or a general volunteer, both of which will be needed at each site.

Site leaders must be available to attend training, and participate in all three counts.

The training will teach site leaders the skills necessary to conduct the count, and to supervise volunteers at their respective sites.

General volunteers on Kaua‘i are asked to attend a free training session and lecture with site leaders, to be scheduled soon.

For the past several years, the results of the Ocean Count have corroborated the findings of humpback-whale-population surveys conducted by various methods, including aerial surveys, organizers said.

A research consultant will analyze the Sanctuary Ocean Count data following the three counts.

The results will be made available on the sanctuary’s Web site (http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov).

Humpbacks were once plentiful in oceans around the globe, but the population was nearly depleted as a result of commercial exploitation.

The species has been listed as endangered in the United States since 1973.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is one of 13 national marine sanctuaries administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The sanctuary employees focus on the protection of the humpback whale and its Hawaiian habitat.

Humpback whales come to Hawaiian waters between November and March, to breed, give birth and raise offspring.

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