Over the last decade the Sanctuary Ocean Count has proven to be a fun volunteer activity for residents and visitors, but it also helps to provide important population and distribution information on humpback whales around the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a win-win program!

The Sanctuary Ocean Count is a project that monitors humpback whales from the shores of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi (the Big Island) and Kauai. Conducted three times per year during peak whale season, it provides a snapshot of humpback whales sightings from the shoreline.

Data that is collected serves as a tool to supplement scientific information gathered from other research activities. The count also provides information on how whales use in-shore waters on an average peak season day. Approximately every five years the data is analyzed and published in a report that is made available on the sanctuary’s website.

View results and whale statistics from the previous ocean counts.

How to volunteer to count whales

The Sanctuary Ocean Count project offers the community a chance to monitor humpback whales from approximately 60 sites along the shores of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i.

Of course, the count cannot be done without the help of enthusiastic volunteers – we hope you’ll consider taking part in this fun opportunity. Site leader and general volunteer positions are available. Explore this site and the sanctuary’s web site to find out more about how you can get involved.

The count is held 3 times/year on the last Saturday of January, February, and March between 8:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. To register click here.

Please note, volunteers must arrive on site at least 30 min prior to the start time for orientation training.

Check out this video to get a taste of what the Ocean Count is really all about:

A similar effort is also done on Maui with the Pacific Whale Foundation.

Volunteer training

General volunteers participating on the islands of O‘ahu and Hawai‘i will receive training for the Sanctuary Ocean Count on the morning of the event.

Why do the Humpback Whales need your help?

The first question you should ask yourself when reading this is not “why?”, but “why not?”.

Spending half a day with the whales AND doing something good AND making a memory you will likely never forget sounds like a pretty good deal to us.

If you want to help out but are not on Hawaii during these dates, have a look at more volunteering opportunities on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The humpback whales around Hawaii are part of the endangered North Pacific humpback whale population, but this population (like almost every other humpback whale population) is still relatively unknown. Data collected in this survey help scientists understand the (Hawaiian) humpback whales and thus makes all preservation efforts more effective!

The Sanctuary Ocean Count is a means to provide Hawaii residents and visitors with the opportunity to observe humpback whales in their breeding grounds by conducting a yearly shore-based census during the peak breeding season.

We are not affiliated with the Ocean Count effort on the Hawai’i islands but maintain this website to raise awareness about the ocean count. Find the official website for the Ocean Count at https://oceancount.org/