Sanctuary Ocean Count

An award-winning volunteer program that COUNTS.

Volunteers participate in the January 2016 Sanctuary Ocean Count on Lanai (credit: Paul Hasley)

On the Lookout.

Volunteers participate in the Sanctuary Ocean Count on Lanai (credit: Paul Hasley).

Every year in January, February, and March, volunteers count whales from the shores of Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island for the annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.

The Sanctuary Ocean Count launched in 1996 when 150 volunteers took to the shorelines of Oahu to count Hawaii’s endangered whale population and document the animals’ surface behavior. The event now draws more than 2,000 volunteers across Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii.

The goal of the Ocean Count project is to increase public awareness of the sanctuary and current ocean issues, including threats to humpback whales while also promoting responsible viewing of all marine wildlife. The project offers Hawaii residents and visitors an opportunity to monitor humpback whales in their breeding grounds by conducting a yearly shore-based census during the peak season.

Although the census does not claim to provide scientifically accurate results, it serves as a tool to supplement scientific information gathered from other research activities. The count also provides snapshot data as well as information on how whales use inshore waters on a typical peak season day.

Support by the community to collect this data can be used to enhance sanctuary education and conservation efforts. Preliminary data is available online for each of the sites.

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Did you know?

Each year, thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, calve, and nurse their young. The whales typically begin to show up in Hawaiian waters in November and some may remain there until May, with numbers peaking in February and March.

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