Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Hawaii's humpback whales to be counted despite fed shutdown

It is unclear why number of whale sightings off Hawaii have plummeted in recent years

A humpback whale leaps out of the water in Hawaii. AP
A humpback whale leaps out of the water in Hawaii. AP

An annual humpback whale count in Hawaii will take place despite the US federal government shutdown.

West Hawaii Today reported on Friday that volunteers from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation would co-ordinate this season's Ocean Count, a project that takes place during peak whale season.

The survey is usually carried out by the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More than 300 volunteers are expected to count whales from shore on January 26.

Although removed from the endangered species list in 2016, most humpback whales remain a federally protected species. Researchers say there has been an estimated 50 to 80 percent drop in humpback whale sightings in recent years.

"Fewer humpback whales are being observed in the main Hawaiian Islands in recent years, and we don't know why," said Kris Sarri, the foundation's president and chief executive. "Unfortunately, critical sanctuary research that could help us understand these changes is on hold indefinitely due to the government shutdown."

Each year, about 11,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii where they mate and give birth during the winter.

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Speculation and theories have developed about the sudden decline in the whale population's presence in Hawaii. In November, a group of whale experts met in Honolulu to better understand the sudden decrease.

Information presented showed a link between warmer ocean temperatures and the missing whales.

Updated: January 13, 2019 10:38 AM

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