Virus forces change in number of whale sightings in Hawaii


    Ella Siroskey scans the ocean for whales off Laie Point during the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary ocean count.

Coronavirus safety precautions have forced organizers to change tack for today’s start of the annual whale count coordinated by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Pacific Whale Foundation, but the whales didn’t seem to notice.

Site managers collected data at 43 sites on four islands, with a total of 177 whale sightings observed between 9 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., most of all times of the day, according to a news release.

The Sanctuary’s Ocean Count on the island of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai and the Maui-based foundation’s Great Whale Count take place three times during peak whale season on the last Saturdays of January, February and March.

The events, which usually attract hundreds of volunteers, have been modified this year, with each shoreline vantage point being overseen by trained site facilitators working individually or in pairs. A total of 68 site managers were involved, tallying whale sightings over 15-minute intervals and documenting the animals’ surface behavior.

On the island of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai, Ocean Count site managers collected data from 31 sites, according to the release. Most whale sightings – 125 – were seen during the 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. time period. In Maui, site officials collected data at 12 sites, with the most sightings – 71 – from 10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

A variety of other species were spotted during the count, including green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, spinner dolphins and seabirds.

Find more information on the Ocean Count Sanctuary website at Learn more about great whale counts at


Comments are closed.