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First of 3 whale Ocean Counts held Saturday

LIHU‘E — Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer Colleen Ogino was hoping to see a breach Saturday at the Ahukini State Recreational Pier viewing site that was sunny, with a calm ocean and just enough of a breeze to keep things cool.

“All we’re seeing are teasers,” Ogino said. “There’s a blow, but it’s way out on the horizon. I want to see a breach, close.”

Ahukini was just one of the 10 sites being used on Kaua‘i during the Sanctuary Ocean Count that is part of the state’s Sanctuary Ocean Count and Great Whale Count. The sanctuary collects data from 45 shoreline sites across the main Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The Sanctuary Ocean Count promotes public awareness about humpback whales, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and shore-based whale-watching opportunities.

“I use Ke Ala Hele Makala‘e, and I see them while doing my walks,” count volunteer Marga Goosen said. “But Ahukini is new for me. Earlier, Colleen saw one, but I missed it.”

During Saturday’s count, a total of 278 whale sightings were observed during the 8 a.m.-to-12:15 p.m. time frame. The greatest number was seen during the 9-to-9:15 a.m. time period, when 278 sightings were counted. This was the most of any time period throughout the day.

On the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, Ocean Count site leaders collected data from 33 sites, with a total of 163 whale sightings seen during the 8:30-to-8:45 a.m. time period, the most sightings of any time period throughout the day.

Site leaders and volunteers took advantage of favorable viewing conditions to note sightings of honu, nai‘a and multiple seabird species, including the ‘iwa and moli.

The Kilauea Lighthouse site was the most active on Kaua‘i, with an average of 10 sightings per 15-minute count period, and Ahukini was the least-active, with just one whale being sighted. The Kapa‘a lookout had the highest count during the time officials reported the greatest number of sightings, with 11 whales and a calf spotted. The Kilauea Lighthouse site reported nine whales and three calves seen during this same time period.

“I had a chance to speak with Perry Maglidt, who was the site leader at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge – Crater Hill, who did the Count with refuge intern Kelsey Loo,” said Jean Souza, the HIHWNMS Kaua‘i program coordinator. “He said Saturday was a beautiful day. It was gorgeous, and he noted they consistently observed two mom-calf pairs swimming independenty. That along with a few other whales were visible the entire time. There were a lot of breaches observed during the final 15 minutes, from noon to 12:15.”

On the average, Kaua‘i volunteers and site leaders counted 4.9 sightings, compared to the 6.4 sightings at O‘ahu sites and 1.4 sightings at Hawai‘i Island sites. The Kaua‘i sightings were up from the three-whale average in 2021, and four whales in 2020.

Saturday’s Count took place under COVID-19 considerations with no volunteers being recruited to assist with the data collection. Five of the sites normally used for Count were not used, and the 10 sites were manned by site leaders and experienced volunteers only, the sites being manned singly or in pairs, maintaining social distance and wearing face masks.

The next Sanctuary Ocean Count will take place on Feb. 26, and the final Count for 2022 will be on March 26.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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