LIHUE — Annual February humpback whale counts from Kauai have dipped to less than half the number they were in 2014, keeping in rhythm with recent statewide research.
Every year the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary holds three counts during the time the whales are in Hawaii — once in January, once in February and the last in March.
Humpback whales are generally in Hawaiian waters from November to May, with peak season being January through March, to breed and have their young.
The 2017 season on Kauai kicked off early, with the one of the first sightings reported Oct. 18, from a Blue Dolphin Adventures tour.
The counts occur simultaneously throughout the islands, with volunteers recording whale sightings during 15-minute periods and on Kauai, data is accumulated from 15 sites.
In March 2015, Kauai and the Big Island averaged two whales every 15 minutes, and Oahu averaged three every 15 minutes.
March 2014 yielded an average of three whales every 15 minutes on Kauai and Oahu, and two per every 15-minute time period on the Big Island.
Kauai reported four whale sightings every 15 minutes in March 2013, and Hawaii and Oahu calculated an average of three. That year, Kauai averaged two whale sightings from all sites.
Researchers have recorded a decline in the number of whale sightings, but also the number of songs and sightings of mother and calf pairs.
But, that doesn’t mean they’ve all disappeared.
Ed Lyman with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary suggests humpback whales could have just changed routes.
Researchers first started noticing a decline in December 2015, when shore-based sightings started observing a decline in sightings of whales in general and specifically of mother-calf pairs.
Associated Press contributed to this report.