Where are the whales?
According to Jean Souza, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Kauai Programs Coordinator and Sanctuary Volunteer Coordinator, the highest number of humpback whales were sighted at three North Shore sites, the Lumahai Overlook, Princeville, and Crater Hill, Saturday during the Sanctuary Ocean Count.
“The viewing conditions at all 12 ocean count sites around the island were excellent with clear, bright skies, calm seas with a slight breeze,” Souza said. “No rain. The only thing is — not many humpback whales were around to be counted and monitored. The average number of whales sighted on Kauai was 0.8 whale per 15-minute count period.”
Cindy Among-Serrao, the 2016 Sanctuary Ocean Count Project Coordinator, said more than 403 volunteers, 76 on Kauai, gathered data from the shores of Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii islands during the third and final event of the 2016 Sanctuary Ocean Count.
Drawing from data from the 50 sites statewide, a total of 94 whale sightings were seen during the 9 to 9:15 a.m. time period. This is the most of any time period throughout the day’s count, Among-Serraro said.
“The site leaders at all four Poipu sites, and the Port Allen Cemetary site saw zero whales during the designated 15-minute time periods,” Souza said. “In comparison, during the January count, the first one of 2016, these same sites recorded an average of six to 12 whales per 15-minute period.”
Souza said in reviewing the Kauai ocean count records, the Saturday data is the lowest humpback whale sightings of all 36 ocean count events. Oahu recorded the largest number of whales sighted at two in the 15-minute time period. This compares with the Kauai average of six whales seen in January during the 15-minute count period. The number dropped to three in February and finally, .78 whale for March.
“We were lucky the pod of dolphins came in and didn’t leave,” said Bruce Parsil, the naturalist at the Poipu Beach Park ocean count site. “The dolphins were playing and kept everyone’s interest for a long time.”
Among-Serrao said other marine life observed statewide included large pods of dolphins, green sea turtles, and several Hawaiian monk seals.
“We don’t have anything,” said Carol Everett, the site leader at Kaiwa Point. “We did see some flying fish, and normally, we’d have seen some turtles. But, nothing.”
The Sanctuary Ocean Count serves to promote public awareness about humpback whales, the sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities, Among-Serrao said. The count is conducted three times each year during peak whale season and provides a snapshot of humpback whales sightings from the shoreline.
“We are so appreciative of the dedication and enthusiasm the volunteers give to this project each year,” Souza said. “We also appreciate the support of the landowners and land managers who allow us to use their properties during the ocean count. Besides generating the count, behavior and mapped data sheets, the volunteers were able to educate more than 2,200 members of the public who stopped by for more information during the three counts this whale season.”