Blustery conditions hamper whale count

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A visiting couple try their hand at shoreline whale watching, joining the Ahukini site leaders Marga Goosen and Colleen Ogino, Saturday during the Sanctuary Ocean Count near the Ahukini State Recreational Pier.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Ahukini site leader Colleen Ogino engages in humpback-whale discussion with a visitor to the site Saturday during the Sanctuary Ocean Count near Ahukini State Recreational Pier.

LIHU‘E — With the expiration of the COVID-19 state mandates and the loosening of pandemic restrictions, there were sightings of more than humpback whales Saturday during the final Sanctuary Ocean Count for 2022 at the site near Ahukini State Recreational Pier.

“You have to be really quick,” Ahukini site leader Marga Goosen said. “With all this wind and a lot of whitecaps, if there is a blow, the wind is quick to pick it up and dissipate the spray. You really need to be on your game today.”

A visiting couple exploring the island stopped by to inquire of Goosen and Colleen Ogino about the activity the site leaders were engaged in.

“I didn’t come last week, but if I had, there was a young adult inside the bay engaged in logging and sailing,” Ogino said. “Too bad it was not a count day. The whale was inside for several hours. They usually engage in those behaviors while relaxing.”

Ogino engaged in whale-behavior discussion with another visitor who parked near the count team which still complied with pandemic health and safety guidelines.

Ahukini was one of 10 sites used on Kaua‘i for the final Sanctuary Ocean Count for 2022, and like the previous counts done during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team was restricted to just trained leaders.

They were part of the 241 volunteers who collected data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island. A similar activity, the Great Whale Count by the Pacific Whale Foundation, took place on Maui. Throughout the state, volunteers collected data from 44 sites on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i island.

According to Cindy Among-Serrao of the Sanctuary Ocean Count, volunteers collected data from 32 sites. A total of 93 whale sightings were recorded during the 10 to 10:15 a.m. time period, the most of any period during the day’s count that ended at 12:15 p.m.

“The average weather conditions were windy, sunny skies, and light to medium swells with whitecaps,” Among-Serrao said. “These conditions impacted visibility, making it harder to view whales, especially during the last scans of the event.”

On Kaua‘i, the average number of sightings was down 1.8 sightings compared with the 3.9 sightings during the February count, and 4.9 sightings during the January count. The Kaua‘i average also compares with the average three sightings on O‘ahu, and .06 sightings on Hawai‘i island.

The Ahukini site also reported an average of one sighting per 15-minute count period, compared with the normally active Maha‘ulepu-Makauwahi Nature Trail and Po‘ipu Beach Park sites that came in with 0.2 sightings.

“Some Kaua‘i sites were affected by winds,” said Jean Souza, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Kaua‘i programs specialist.

“An interesting observation was from co-site leaders Perry Maglidt and Patti Thiele at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Crater Hill. They reported that, following a slow start, the final hour brought an incredible number of seabird activity and humpback whales. During the final 30 minutes of the count, they saw many slaps, breaches and blows.”

The Sanctuary Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, the HIHWNMS and shore-based whale-watching opportunities. During the count, site leaders tally humpback-whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior that provides a snapshot of humpback-whale activity from the shorelines of the three islands.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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