An entangled humpback was first spotted on February 13th near the Big Island trailing hundreds of feet of heavy gauge line – some that was partially embedded in its tail. Due to inclement weather and other extenuating circumstances, no immediate response could be made. Fortunately, The West Hawaii Marine Mammal Response Network was able to tag the whale and track its location until a rescue attempt could be made.
It wasn’t until February 20th that a response team tracked the whale to the leeward side of Maui, and launched their rescue attempt out of Maalaea Harbor just before 8:00am. Using techniques rarely seen since the heyday of whaling, the team used an inflatable boat to get near the whale and attached buoys in an attempt to prevent it from diving. The 8-hour operation saw the humpback freed of nearly all the line, with the exception of about six feet which scientists expect will be expelled over time and its wounds to heal. Prior to releasing it, tissue samples were taken to ascertain its health which was found to be in fair to moderate condition.
Whale entanglements are growing increasingly more common; averaging at least one death a year, while it’s estimated that about 75% of whales bear scars from it. We’re so grateful that this humpback had a happy ending and will live to return to beautiful Hawaiian waters on many more occasions. If you see an entangled whale or distressed marine mammal call NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) at (888) 256-9840, and please do not approach it on your own as it can be dangerous not only for yourself, but for the animal as well.
Here at Hawaii Ocean Project we are extremely respectful of the ocean and all of the amazing animals that live in it. With only three months left in whale watching season, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that we offer an early bird special whale watch tour at the extremely affordable cost of $19.21 for adults and $17.07 for children. You never know – we may see our friend, the freed humpback!