LIHUE — With the annual return of humpback whales to the Hawaiian Islands comes a need for fresh sets of eyes to monitor their behavior.
Registration is now open for the 2015 Sanctuary Ocean Count, themed “Keep Calm and Count Whales.”
Coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the award-winning outreach program offers residents and visitors the opportunity to monitor whales and their activity from 15 different locations on Kauai.
Now in its 20th year, the project is conducted at more than 60 sites on Kauai, Hawaii and Oahu.
The 2015 Sanctuary Ocean Count dates have been scheduled for Jan. 31, Feb. 28 and March 28, from 8 a.m. to noon. Kauai volunteers who have not attended an ocean count training session are required to do so prior to participating.
The training consists of a one hour instruction on the ocean count method and one hour lecture on humpback whales. In addition to ensuring participants have a an enjoyable experience, the trainings help NOAA obtain reliable data.
Training sessions begin at 11 a.m. Jan. 24, Feb. 21 and Mar. 21 at King Kaumualii Elementary School in Hanamaulu, as well as 1 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center.
The award-winning program — winner of the 2012 Take Pride in America “Best Federal Volunteer Program” — allows volunteers to count the number of humpback whales at designated locations around the islands and record their behavior. Not only has it proved to be a fun volunteer activity, it also provides important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the Hawaiian islands.
Jean Souza, NOAA’s Kauai program coordinator, said each of the three counts on Kauai draws between 150 and 200 volunteers, including a large number of visitors and part-time residents.
Volunteers select the date or dates in which they wish to participate and choose the most appropriate site for them, based on location, elevation, proximity to comfort facilities and other factors.
Kauai Sanctuary Ocean Count sites from the North Shore to the Westside include Lumahai Lookout, the Cliffs at Princeville, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Crater Hill East, Kapaa Lookout, Ahukini State Recreation Pier, Ninini Lighthouse, Mahaulepu (Haula), Mahaulepu (Makawehi), Makahuena Point, Poipu Beach Park, Kaiwa Point, Port Allen Cemetery, Waimea Canyon Drive and the Pacific Missile Range Facility.
For those who are unable to attend a training, the only site that can accommodate untrained volunteers is the Poipu Beach Park site.
For a map of count locations, directions to each site or more information visit www.hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov or call 246-2860.
Volunteer registration is being conducted online at http://sanctuaryoceancount.org.