LIHUE — Alina Evanoff did not mind the white caps or the bone-chilling wind Saturday at the Ahukini Landing.
“It makes everything really big,” the young girl said, clutching her new-found binoculars and training it on anything she could find — the ocean, the mountains, a passing plane.
She was joined by her grandmother, Karin Plischinsky, visiting from Germany, and eight other volunteers headed by site leaders Marga Goosen and Lani Tamanaha-Broadbent at one of 10 sites utilized for the first of three ocean counts this year.
The event was impacted by the partial government shutdown when the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation took over the statewide coordinated effort. The Foundation will continue to coordinate the counts in February and March.
Viewing conditions were hampered by blustery weather and surf.
“We can’t see any whales,” said Goosen. “But there are birds, and Lani is using a guidebook to figure out what kinds of birds we’re seeing.”
About 575 volunteers collected data from 51 sites on Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii island during the initial count for 2019. On Maui, the Great Whale Count by the Pacific Whale Foundation joined the effort for the first time.
“This is the first year that both counts are coordinated on the same date, ensuring the data from all main islands is collected simultaneously,” said Cindy Among-Serraro of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “It is also the first year that Pacific Whale Foundation is expanding its Great Whale Count on Maui from one month to three.”
A total of 168 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. time period, the NMSF reported. This was the most of any time period throughout the day’s count that ran until 12:15 p.m. A total of 96 whale sightings were seen during the 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. time period from 39 sites on the islands of Hawaii, Oahu, and Kauai.
On Kauai, where the average number of whales amounted to three counted during a 15-minute count period, the most sightings were reported at Princeville with five, and from Mahaulepu, Makawehi with nine sightings from 8 to 8:15 a.m. Mahaulepu reported the most sightings on Kauai with nine sightings during the state optimum time period. The sightings dropped throughout the count period with a spike of seven sightings at 11:30 to 11:45 a.m. time period.
Ahukini Landing, where the Goosen group counted, just one whale sighted in the 10:30 to 10:45 a.m. time period.
The Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and offers shore-based whale watching opportunities where volunteer participants tally humpback whale sightings and documents the animals’ surface behavior during the survey.
The next Ocean Counts will take place on the last Saturday in February and March.