Counters turn out, few whales about

AHUKINI — The John Link family from Illinois wanted to see one last whale before heading home yesterday.

The whales didn’t cooperate though and the preliminary Kaua‘i site report provided by Jean Souza of the Hawaiian Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary confirmed that no whales were sighted at the Ahukini station through the four-hour period the third Marine Ocean Count was held.

Sherri Knapp of the sanctuary office, did not let that deter her efforts as she distributed whale literature to the Link family whose daughter Cathy Jo has aspirations of becoming a veterinarian.

“This is really perfect weather for watching,” Knapp said. “Unfortunately, there are no whales today.”

Jean Alexander, a six-year veteran of Ocean Counts, joked that the whales were on their way to Po‘ipu for the brunch.

Along the South Shore, two stations, Maha‘ulepu-Haula and Maha‘ulepu-Makawehi both reported six whale sightings averaged within 15-minute periods.

Makahuena, Po‘ipu Beach Park and Kaiwa Point, all South Shore observation sites, came in with sightings of five, one and two whales per 15-minute period, respectively.

Joining Alexander at the Ahukini site, Sally Amson and Susan Finn were enjoying their first count.

“I learned about the count from the newspaper,” Amson said. “I wanted to do it previously, but there was always something that came up where either I was busy on the count day, or I couldn’t make the training.”

“When Jean Souza came to the Mokihana Club to do a presentation, that did it. I finally got on the mailing list and set my schedule around the training and count,” Amson said.

Amson said she previously thought that if she couldn’t do all three counts in the year, she would be ineffective. Since then, she learned otherwise.

“They always need volunteers,” she said. “Even if you can only do one count, the information is valuable.”

Also joining the group at Ahukini, Rex and Susan Weese from Missouri were also first-time counters.

Susan said they spend two months here and learned about the ocean count through the Web site.

“We saw a couple from the Kilauea lighthouse a few days ago,” Susan said. “But, the only thing out there are a couple of boats.”

The North Shore sites of Lumahai Overlook, Princeville Hotel, Kilauea Lighthouse and Crater Hill all reported sightings of four whales average, per 15-minute interval. That is the second most sightings following the South Shore sites.

Thomas Slyter had just emerged from the Ahukini waters following a SCUBA diving session and joined the counters.

“He said they can hear the whales when they’re underwater,” Alexander, who was a site leader her first year out, said. “But he said he hasn’t heard any for the past several weeks. They must all be in Po‘ipu for the brunch.”

At the Kapa‘a lookout, counters took up positions along the pull-off overlooking the bike path. Knapp was scheduled to visit that location following her Ahukini stop. They reported an average of three whale sightings per 15-minute period.

Similar to Ahukini, the Ninini Point site reported just one sighting averaged, per 15-minute interval.

This also agrees with the first count on Jan. 27 when Ninini Point spotted five whales average in the same time interval.

On the Westside, the Port Allen Cemetery spotted a whale in the 15-minute interval, the Waimea Canyon Drive Overlook had two whales in the same time period, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana reported four whales average.

The highest sightings statewide came from Kaho‘olawe where 10 whales average were sighted in the 15-minute period.

This was followed by O‘ahu and Kaua‘i who each reported three whales average and the Big Island rounded out the state average with two whales.

In preliminary state figures, Kaua‘i had just 92 volunteers manning 15 sites. That number is down from the 123 volunteers who turned out for the January count and 126 counters in February.

Additionally, 292 people were recipients of whale education packets at the ocean count sites. That number is also down from the January and February counts where 410 and 370 people got information, respectively.

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