Sunday, May 22, 2022 |
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AHUKINI — Marga Goosen, site leader for the Ahukini humpback whale count site, said the whales were really close on Saturday.
“It looks like they’re following the shelf,” she said. “This is more than we saw during the entire period at the last count.”
Goosen was heading up a team of spotters at the Ahukini site of the March Sanctuary Ocean Count coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Saturday’s count was the last one planned for 2010.
Between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m., the pod made its way from the jetty marker to beyond the point, accounting for the sightings.
But Jean Souza, the Kaua‘i programs coordinator for the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said following that brief activity, sightings dropped off at Ahukini.
The most active site among the 15 Kaua‘i sites was the Kilauea Lighthouse, where teams averaged four sightings within a 15-minute count period. Ahukini was one of the least active sites, along with the Kapa‘a Lookout, where just one sighting in the 15-minute period was reported.
Overall, Kaua‘i finished with two sightings on average in the 15-minute period, which is in line with the 2009 average.
This compares with three sightings for O‘ahu and the Big Island.
More than 1,000 volunteers counted whales and gathered data from O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and the Big Island for the statewide sanctuary, states a release from NOAA.
During the count, participants tallied humpback whale sightings and documented the animals’ surface behavior.
“This month’s counts were a great success with more than 1,000 volunteers participating,” said Christine Brammer, sanctuary ocean count coordinator. “The Sanctuary Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawai‘i’s humpbacks while participating in a monitoring effort.”
Dee Fairfield of Muskegon, Michigan, was thrilled to be able to see the pod at Ahukini.
“This is our first Hawai‘i whale count,” Fairfield said. “We did one in Boston, and 45 minutes out, we saw nothing. We also went to Po‘ipu to try and see some whales, but a surfer said they were too far out. When we were in Alaska, we saw nothing but sea otters and eagles, so this is quite exciting.”
Fairfield said she was not alone because in the Ahukini count party were three other ladies from Michigan and one from Fort Collins, Colorado.
“We were in Waikiki for a week, but it’s like being in Downtown Chicago,” Fairfield said. “This is beautiful. And, we got to see whales!”
Saturday’s final count for 2010 had weather conditions ideal for viewing and in addition to humpback whales, spotters observed spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles and a variety of seabirds.
As many as 10,000 humpback whales winter in Hawai‘i waters, states the NOAA release. Scientific studies have shown that Hawai‘i’s humpback whale population has been increasing at an annual rate of approximately seven percent.
Data from the Sanctuary Ocean Count can be used to corroborate these findings over time. Hawaiian waters provide critical breeding habitat for approximately two-thirds of the north Pacific stock of humpback whales.
Visit www.sanctuaryoceancount.org or www.humpbackwhale.noaa.gov for more information on becoming a Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer in 2011.
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