Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 |
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LIHUE — Sometimes, the whales were so near, Lani Tamanaha Broadbent could not just see them, but hear them.
“We had some whales come in pretty close doing some tail slapping and pec (fin) slapping,” said Tamanaha Broadbent, who was at Ahukini Harbor on Saturday for the first of three ocean counts hosted by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “They were close enough that we could hear the activity.”
Tamanaha Broadbent and her crew were part of the 114 volunteers on Kauai who took to 13 of 15 viewing sites to provide a snapshot of humpback whale activity. The Kauai effort joined sites on Oahu and the Big Island.
Shannon Lyday, resource protection specialist for HIHWNMS, said the count is a shore-based census that provides snapshot data on humpback whales. Participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey.
“Volunteers collected data from 51 sites Saturday,” Lyday said in an email. “A total of 258 whales were seen during the 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. time period — the most of any time period throughout the day’s count.”
On average, the Kauai volunteers sighted more whales than their counterparts on Oahu and the Big Island, “counting” six whales per 15-minute count period as compared with four in the same period on Oahu and Hawaii island, said Jean Souza, Kauai programs coordinator and Sanctuary volunteer coordinator for the HIHWNMS.
The averages from the preliminary count results are down from 2015 when Kauai reported an average of eight whales.
“Two sites were unusable Saturday,” Souza said. “The Lumahai lookout was overgrown with tall weeds, and the Kilauea Lighthouse is closed due to construction activity. The Crater Hill site, within the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, recorded more than 12 whales per 15-minute count period followed by Mahaulepu-Makawehi, or Shipwreck’s, averaging more than 11 whales per 15-minute count period.”
Souza said Ahukini Landing was on the low end of the count with an average of two whales sighted per 15-minute count period, but the close encounters with several whales created a lot of excitement.
“Carol Everett, site leader at Kaiwa Point, indicated the humpback whales they observed seemed to be milling around, rather than traveling through,” Souza said.
Some seemed to be resting. Others spouted and splashed. Conditions for viewing whales were excellent on the South Shore with clear skies and minimal winds. Conditions on the Eastside and North Shore sites experienced some rain showers and rainbows, but overall, generally calm conditions.
During the first ocean count for 2016, volunteer counters also saw spinner dolphins, sea turtles, tropic birds, albatrosses and other seabirds.
“There were reports of an entangled whale in the Kauai waters,” said James Yamamoto, site leader at the Ninini Point site. “We’re supposed to be keeping an eye out for that whale, as well. If we see it, we’re supposed to verify its entanglement.”
The next two ocean counts will take place Feb. 27 and March 26. To register to participate, visit www.sanctuaryoceancount.org.
Trainings for Kauai volunteers will take place Feb. 20 and March 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School in Hanamaulu.
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