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No whales at Ahukini

LIHUE — The humpback whales were everywhere else except the Ahukini Landing and Ninini Point count sites, Saturday during the second of three Ocean Counts coordinated by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

The Ninini Point site fared only slightly better, reporting two whales in the 8:30 a.m. count period and closing the day with sightings of another pair just before the count period ended at 12:15 p.m.

“Saturday was a remarkable day on Kauai,” said Jean Souza of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “Perfect triple combo — perfect viewing conditions, plus whales, plus appreciative whale observers. The viewing conditions were outstanding with flat seas, sunny, calm winds, clear with no haze or fog.”

Kauai’s volunteers manned 12 sites from Princeville through the Pacific Missile Range Facility, joining more than 612 volunteers from Oahu, and Hawaii in doing the monthly count done, Saturday to ensure that data from all islands are collected simultaneously.

The volunteers collected data from 55 sites statewide with a total of 372 whale sightings being reported during the 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. time period, the most of any time period throughout the day’s count, said Cindy Among-Serrao of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Data from Kauai’s 12 sites averaged five sightings per 15-minute count period with the greatest number of sightings being reported by the Princeville site where counters saw 11 whales with three calves in the count period starting at 10 a.m.

“The whales were closer to shore,” said Sharlene McCormick, the site leader at The Cliffs at Princeville. “We could see the markings on the whale. We could see the eye. One volunteer saw barnacles. We could hear the thunderous thus of a breaching whale. Pretty exciting.”

Volunteer counters at the Mahaulepu-Makawehi site reported 10 whales in the count period starting at 8 a.m., the sightings dropping off through the four-hour count period to end with just one sighting in the period starting at noon.

“It was incredible with so much activity in the first half hour,” said Becky Fries, the site leader at the Mahaulepu-Makawehi Point site. “I haven’t seen this many whales in February for years. In a 10-minute span within the first half hour, we counted 47 tail slaps, then another 42 tail slaps.”

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

During the count, volunteer participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals surface behavior during the survey which provides a snapshot of humpback whale activities from the shorelines of Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii island.

On Maui, the survey is coordinated in their island’s Great Whale Count by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

People interested in volunteering for the final Ocean Count, March 30, can register by visiting www.oceancount.org.
Source: The Garden Island

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