Beautiful day, but few whales

AHUKINI — Saturday was a beautiful day, said Marga Goosen. Too bad the whales don’t know it.

Goosen was the site leader for a group of 11 volunteers taking part in the 20th annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count at the Ahukini site, one of 15 on Kauai.

The count is conducted three times a year during peak whale season and is a shore-based census which provides snapshot data on humpback whales.

Saturday was the final count for 2015.

Kauai had 115 volunteers participating at sites from the Lumahai Lookout down to the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana. Site leaders and naturalists also offered education to nearly 1,000 people during this year’s three sanctuary counts.

Jean Souza, the HIHWNMS Kauai programs coordinator, said viewing conditions for viewing whales from shore were very good around the island.

“Winds were very light,” Souza said. “Skies were clear, and seas were generally flat. Unfortunately, as is typical for the tail end of the peak season, there were very few humpback whales to be seen.”

Kauai’s average sighting within a 15-minute count period was two whales.

“Horrible,” said Ralph Stewart, a volunteer for the past seven years. “I have two guests from Washington state who come down here to count whales, and there aren’t any. I have the quadrant away from the sun’s glare and I haven’t seen any. There were some sighted to the south, and a few way out on the horizon to the north.”

Souza said more whales were observed at North Shore locations, extending down to Kapaa. These sites reported an average of three to five whales within a 15-minute count period. The highest count was at the Kilauea Lighthouse and the Kapaa Lookout where five whales were sighted within a 15-minute count period.

Souza noted that coincidentally, most of the sites with higher counts were within the boundary of the HIHWNMS. These findings were similar to those on Oahu and Hawaii Island.

Ahukini was one of six sites which reported just one whale sighted during a 15-minute count period.

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