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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA06-R405
January 28, 2006

CONTACT:
Christine Brammer, Humpback Whale
National Marine Sanctuary
(808) 397-2651, Ext. 252
or (808) 265-0982

VOLUNTEERS COUNT WHALES FROM THE SHORES OF O'AHU, KAUA'I, THE BIG ISLAND AND KAHO'OLAWE

More than 650 volunteers gathered data from the shores of O'ahu, Kaua'i, the Big Island and Kaho'olawe at Saturday's annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count to tally sightings and document surface behaviors of the endangered humpback whales. The sanctuary, which is managed by Commerce Department's NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, monitors the status of the whales that migrate in the winter to Hawaiian waters to breed, calve and nurse.

Volunteers collected data from 61 sites statewide. Weather conditions were good to fair throughout the state although some sites experienced high winds and surf which may have affected the resulting averages. The numbers listed below represent the average number of whales sighted per 15-minute count period on each of the islands.

Overall - 3 whales (includes all participating islands)
O'ahu - 2 whales
Kaua'i - 4 whales
Big Island - 3 whales
Kaho'olawe - Data not currently available

Scientific studies have shown that Hawai'i's humpback whale population has been increasing at an annual rate of approximately seven percent for the last 10 years. Over time, data from the Sanctuary Ocean Count can be used to corroborate these scientific findings. Hawaiian waters provide critical breeding habitat for an estimated 5,000 whales, or approximately two-thirds of the North Pacific stock of humpback whales.

"Aside from the numerical findings, the Sanctuary Ocean Count is an important education and outreach project for the sanctuary," said Christine Brammer, Sanctuary Ocean Count Coordinator. "The Ocean Count is a unique opportunity for the public to learn about Hawai'i's humpbacks while participating in a monitoring effort. It's wonderful to see that so many people respond to our call for volunteers."

Volunteer participants enjoy the four hours they spend observing the majestic humpbacks and many come back year after year for the experience. Some even plan their vacations around it! Some participants are familiar with seeing whales, and some may see whales for the first time on the day of the count.

Two more Sanctuary Ocean Counts are scheduled for February 25 and March 25. Final results of the Ocean Count will be analyzed and compiled, and will be available on the sanctuary website (http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov) in the fall of 2006. For more information on becoming a Sanctuary Ocean Count volunteer, contact the appropriate sanctuary office. On the Big Island, call 1-888-55-WHALE ext. 253. On O'ahu, call 397-2651 ext. 253. On Kaua'i, call 1-808-246-2860. A whale count on Maui is conducted independently by the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program and the State of Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine environment and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes, natural and cultural resources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

On the Web:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Program - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary - http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov


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