Hawaiian humpback whale count to continue despite government shutdown

An annual Ocean Count to keep tabs on humpback whales will take
place January 26 despite the...
An annual Ocean Count to keep tabs on humpback whales will take place January 26 despite the federal government shutdown.(J. Moore/HIHWNMS/NOAA)
Updated: Jan. 8, 2019 at 1:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An annual effort to monitor humpback whale migration numbers in Hawaii will proceed as scheduled despite the shutdown of the federal government, a spokesperson for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation said Tuesday.

Each year, the group and its volunteers — along with federally-funded agencies like NOAA — conduct an ocean count at the end of January, February and March.

This year, participation in the count by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary will be limited due to the ongoing government shutdown. Instead, the sanctuary’s non-profit partner says it will coordinate.

“With the federal government shutdown, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is stepping in to make sure the count is not interrupted,” reads a statement from foundation.

Recent trends regarding the decline in humpback whale sightings have made this year’s count more important than ever, says the foundation’s president.

“Fewer humpback whales are being observed in the main Hawaiian Islands in recent years and we don’t know why," said Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. "Unfortunately, critical sanctuary research that could help us understand these changes is on hold indefinitely due to the government shutdown.”

More than 300 volunteers are expected to participate in Ocean Count on Saturday, January 26, the foundation says. Other counts are scheduled for February 23 and March 30.

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