Humpback whales are returning to Hawaii
HONOLULU – Recent news stories have caused concern about the apparent low numbers of humpback whales appearing this season in Hawaii. Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary would like to clarify some information:
We can’t say that there are lower numbers, just later numbers. Total numbers would require dedicated research. Anything else is observational or anecdotal.
Whales are being observed daily in growing numbers.
Whale season is normally November through May. The peak is February and March. Whales don’t have watches or calendars, so they might not exactly follow human expectations.
They were a bit later this year than in recent years, but are now arriving, and our experts were out yesterday and saw a large number of whales off Maui. Local tour operators have also reported seeing normal numbers of whales recently.
This year’s arrivals appear to be in keeping with long-term historic observations. Recent years have had whales arriving early, making a “normal” arrival appear to be late.
HIHWNMS conducts Ocean Count, a citizen science volunteer effort to count whales, every year at the end of January, February and March. Numbers in February and March are typically higher than January.
Numbers of whales usually gradually increase in January and February, since whales don’t all come in a mass at the same time.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii through the Department of Land and Natural Resources, protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve and nurse their young.