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Whale counts to limit volunteers

The Maui News

Annual Ocean Counts of humpback whales will be held with limited volunteers over the coming months due to COVID-19, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary announced Friday.

Ocean Counts are scheduled for Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 26.

Supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Ocean Count project promotes public awareness about humpback whales, the sanctuary and shore-based whale watching opportunities, according to a news release. Site leaders tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey, which provides a snapshot of humpback whales’ activity from the shorelines of Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island.

The Great Whale Count by Pacific Whale Foundation, a similar effort on Maui, will take place on the same dates and will also be running a modified program.

For the Jan. 29 event, the sanctuary will operate without the normal participation of volunteers. Instead, each site will be monitored by trained site leaders working individually or as a couple.

For the February and March events, conditions may allow for a small number of general volunteers to participate along with trained site leaders. This will depend on multiple factors, including, but not limited to, state and county guidelines, site access permissions and safety of all participants. A decision will be made by Feb. 15 and March 15 on whether general volunteer participation for each month will be approved.

For more information on the Ocean Count project, visit oceancount.org.

For more information on Pacific Whale Foundation’s Great Whale Count, visit pacificwhale.org/research/community-science/.

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