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April 6 - Subadult Humpback Whale Freed of Life-threatening Entanglement in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Yesterday a NOAA-led response team successfully freed an entangled humpback whale off Lahaina, Maui. This was a different animal than the ones reported on last week.

The entangled subadult humpback whale was first seen and monitored by Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Discovery in the morning of Sunday, April 6, 2014. Ultimate Whale Watch's Wiki Wahine and West Maui Rapid Response Team's response vessel, Aloha Kai, also assisted to monitor the entangled whale before an authorized response team on board the sanctuary's response vessel, Koholā, arrived at the scene.

Entangled Humpback Whale
Humpback whale with entanglement
Photo Credit: J. Moore/ HIHWNMS / NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP Permit # 932-1905

The entanglement involved a braided line running through the animal's mouth, and trailing approximately 120 feet behind to a pair of buoys on one end of the line. While the animal was still in good condition, the entanglement was life threatening, and would have impacted the animal's ability to feed on its return to high-latitude feeding grounds.

Around 12:30 pm, the response team was able to entirely free the animal of all gear by adding dragging buoys to the gear on the one side of the body. With the other side being buoy-free, the team was able to literally pull the line from the animal's mouth, freeing it of all gear. The animal is expected to make a full recovery and was last seen heading north, perhaps back to its feeding grounds - a journey that will be much easier now that it is no longer entangled.

Pole camera
Casey Cohan and Ed Lyman retrieving the gear that was pulled off animal.
Photo Credit: N. Davis/ HIHWNMS / NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP Permit # 932-1905

The efforts were led by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working closely with trained personnel from NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Corps, the West Maui Rapid Response Team and trained responders. Special thanks to the tour vessels of Pacific Whale Foundation and Ultimate Whale Watch for monitoring the whale and making this a successful case.

If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, please maintain the required safety distance of 100 yards and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840, or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

Make a Donation

Make a donationexit sign to the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation to support the sanctuary's efforts to protect Hawaiʻi's humpback whales. Proceeds directly benefit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Media Inquiries

For more information on the sanctuary's rescue program or other programs please contact the sanctuary's media contact.


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February 2014

December 2013

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March 2011

December 2009

August 2007

April 2007

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February 2006




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