PWF count: Nearly 100 whales off Maui in 15 minutes

Maui’s 12 sites logged nearly 100 whales in a 15-minute time period and 774 whales total during The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation on Saturday, the second of three monthly counts, according to the foundation.

Equipped with hats, sunscreen and binoculars, more than 612 volunteers tallied whale sightings at 55 locations around the state Saturday. PWF coordinated its data collection to coincide with the 2019 Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count, which gathered information from 43 sites on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

Maui recorded 94 whales from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m., the most of any time period throughout the day’s count. Statewide, 372 whale sightings were observed during that timeframe.

During the Maui count, a humpback whale mother was spotted conducting “fluke-up feeding” with her calf at Maalaea; a breaching manta ray was seen from the McGregor Point scenic lookout; and a pod of dolphins swam by Kihei Surfside Resort, according to PWF spokeswoman Kelly McHugh. A variety of other species were also spotted during the count including sea turtles, spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, a manta ray and multiple sea bird species.

The annual Great Whale Count collects volunteer data as part of a long-term survey of humpback whales in Hawaii. The event gives a glimpse into relative abundance trends and is one of the world’s longest-running citizen scientist projects.

The third and final PWF count for this year will take place on the last Saturday of March.

For Great Whale Count data, visit mauiwhalefestival.org/greatwhalecount/.

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