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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 24, 2007

CONTACT: Christine Brammer, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
(808) 397-2651 ext. 252 or (808) 224-6444

Volunteers Count Whales from the Shores of O’ahu, Kaua’I, the Big Island, and Kaho’olawe

More than 600 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, the Big Island, and Kaho‘olawe for Saturday’s annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count. Participants tallied humpback whale sightings and documented the animals’ surface behavior during the survey, which will take place once more on the last Saturday of March. The sanctuary, which is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters, where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.

Volunteers collected data from 59 sites statewide.  The following are the average numbers of whales sighted per 15-minute count period on each of the islands:

  • O‘ahu – 3 whales
  • Kaua‘i – 4 whales
  • Big Island – 4 whales
  • Kaho‘olawe – 9 whales

Scientific studies have shown that Hawaii’s humpback whale population has been increasing at an annual rate of approximately seven percent, and over time data from the Sanctuary Ocean Count can be used to corroborate these findings. Hawaiian waters provide critical breeding habitat for approximately two-thirds of the North Pacific stock of humpback whales.

“February is the peak of whale season in the Hawaiian Islands and this season has proved to be a busy one for the sanctuary.  In fact, yesterday the Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network successfully freed a humpback whale that was entangled in marine debris in the Maui County area” said Christine Brammer, Sanctuary Ocean Count Coordinator. “The Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawai`i’s humpbacks and the sanctuary and understand what is being done to protect the humpbacks from threats such as entanglement.”  Please contact the sanctuary for more information, video clips, or photos related to the rescue effort.

Today’s weather held out for the count; however, wind conditions resulted in decreased visibility in some locations around the state.  Although counters were tasked with counting humpback whales, many other species including spinner dolphins, green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, and a variety of seabirds were spotted.

One more Sanctuary Ocean Count is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 31. Previous Ocean Count results are available on the sanctuary’s website, http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/. For more information on becoming a Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer, contact the appropriate sanctuary office. On the Big Island, call 1-888-55-WHALE ext. 253. On O‘ahu, call 397-2651 ext. 253. On Kaua’i, call 1-808-246-2860. A whale count on Maui is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, which manages the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

National Marine Sanctuary Program: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary: http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

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