The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finished its seasonal whale count this past Saturday. The count is conducted at various locations in Hawaii (including Turtle Bay Resort) on each of the last Saturdays of January, February and March. The information obtained from these counts is used by researchers who are monitoring the success of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Congress established the sanctuary in 1992 and with the approval of Hawaii’s governor the sanctuary was fully designated in 1997. It covers 1,370 square miles of coastal waters adjacent to the main Hawaiian Islands.
Previously hunted to near extinction, these whales are making a slow comeback. As the 5th largest of the great whales, the humpbacks weigh about 1.5 tons at birth (10 to 16 feet long) and grow to about 45 tons and 45 feet long. It can take up to 10 years for a female to reach sexual maturity and then they only give birth up to every third year. Based on the counts the current world’s humpback whale population has now reached 7,000 but they still have long way to go to reach the 20,000 population that existed in the pre-whaling population.
Humpback whales are unique among all whales in that they tend to display acrobatic movements as they travel, giving them a reputation for being playful. Yet maybe the Humpback’s most famous and intriguing feature is its song, which is said to be one of the longest and most complex in the animal kingdom.
The whales can be seen from Turtle Bay Resort best during their migration period, which begins in December and ends in April of each year. Turtle Bay Resort enjoyed its working relationship with NOAA this year, as it has in the past years. More information on the sanctuary and its projects can be found here.
If you will be at Turtle Bay Resort on last Saturday of January, February or March of next year, you might want to consider signing up and being a volunteer for the next year’s whale count!