Ocean Count launches in perfect weather

AHUKINI — David Valmoja of M. Tours Hawaii put down his binoculars to find out what all the people were doing Saturday morning at the Ahukini Pier park.

The group of 13 volunteers were scanning the waves as part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, the first of three scheduled for 2015.

Valmoja, who was doing his own scanning, said “Now, I know. We have groups who do whale watching so we might even bring them here during one of the counts.”

The Sanctuary Ocean Count offers the community an opportunity to monitor humpback whales from the shores of Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii Island on the last Saturday of January, February and March from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Jane Woodward of Puhi said this was her very first Ocean Count. “I’m a preschool teacher in Kilauea,” Woodward said. “We take the children to see the whales, and in March, I’m volunteering at the Kilauea site. We see whales when we go to the beach, but during Ocean Count, you’re focused on whales and marine life. Additionally, I learned a lot more about whales during the training.”

John Berger, the site leader at the Kapaa Lookout viewing site, said there was a lot of activity to be seen.

“The weather is perfect for viewing,” Berger said. “There’s almost no wind, the sky is clear, there are no white caps to confuse viewers, and even the sun helps because it highlights the blows which hang long enough for people to see them.”

Mary Jane Berger, the co-site leader, said the activity started early, and by mid-morning was at a lull.

“There were about seven or eight whales seen at one time,” Berger said. “To see that many at one time is not that common. We even saw activity before the 8 a.m. start time. This must be one of the active sites for this count.”

To register for the next Ocean Count, scheduled for the last Saturday in February, visit www.http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov

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