HONOLULU (AP) – The Take Pride in American program is naming an annual whale count organized by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary an Outstanding Federal Volunteer Program.
The project began in 1996 when 150 volunteers counted humpback whales and documented their behavior in the ocean off Oahu. Now, more than 2,300 volunteers participate on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii islands.
The Pacific Whale Foundation started the state’s first such count on Maui in 1991. The private organization still runs an annual whale count on Maui.
Sanctuary Superintendent Malia Chow said Thursday the whale survey engages local communities and visitors in ocean conservation. She says the award recognizes the work of thousands of volunteers. The U.S. Department of the Interior administers the Take Pride in America program.