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Hawaii: A free whale watch also helps the humpback mammals

March 07, 2014|By Jay Jones
  • Volunteers look for humpback whales during a recent count at Shark's Cove, a lookout point along Oahu's North Shore. The count will be repeated March 29.
Volunteers look for humpback whales during a recent count at Shark's… (NOAA )

Visitors to Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island can join in a free whale-watching experience on March 29 when they will not only be on the lookout for whales but also be counting them.

Humpback whales come to Hawaii each winter to mate and calve, and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary tracks their numbers during the Sanctuary Ocean Count that’s held one Saturday morning each January, February and March.

About 2,000 volunteers are needed for the counts, which take place at 62 locations scattered across the three islands. Most are easily accessible. Some, such as the ones at Oahu’s Ihilani and Turtle Bay resorts, don’t even require guests to hop in a car.

The count’s website provides details of the various locations.

“The purpose is twofold,” said project manager Jordan Ching. “We don’t claim the data we collect is scientifically accurate…but it provides a snapshot of broader trends. Even more important is the awareness that’s spread.”

Recent whale counts have been encouraging, Ching said.

“What has been generally accepted is their North Pacific population has been slowly increasing,” he said.

Participants must register no later than March 26.

Each location has a limited number of slots. The counts begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 12:15 p.m.

The National Marine Sanctuary has a visitor center at Kihei on Maui.

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