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March 29, 2008

Contact: Sarah Marquis, 949-222-2212

Volunteers Count Whales in NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

More than 500 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.

“The Ocean Count project provides a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawai`i’s humpback whales and the sanctuary while observing the animals from the shoreline” said Christine Brammer, Sanctuary Ocean Count coordinator.  “Humpback whales are protected in Hawai‘i and the sanctuary would like to remind everyone on the water, from kayakers and boaters to surfers and swimmers, that it is illegal to approach humpback whales within 100 yards.”

Participants tallied humpback whale sightings and documented the animals’ surface behavior during the survey.  This was the last whale count of the 2007 whale season.  The sanctuary, which is managed by NOAA, 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 58 sites statewide. Every 15 minutes, an average of 3 whales were counted per site statewide. The following are the average numbers of whales sighted per 15-minute count period on each of the islands:

  • O‘ahu – 2 whales
  • Kaua‘i – 3 whales
  • Big Island – 2 whales
  • Kaho‘olawe – 5 whales

Scientific studies have shown that Hawai‘i’s humpback whale population has been increasing at an annual rate of approximately seven percent. 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.

“Projects like the Sanctuary Ocean Count help emphasize how easy it can be to enjoy watching humpback whales from Hawai‘i’s shores,” said Brammer. “If you missed your chance to take part in the project this year, mark your calendars now for next season. As always, be safe and responsible by viewing humpback whales and other marine mammals from a distance at all times.”

The annual Sanctuary Ocean Count project will be held in 2009 on the last Saturday of January, February, and March. Find out more about the project and view previous Ocean Count results on the sanctuary’s website at A whale count on Maui is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, 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 70 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 National Ocean Service:

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary:





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