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December 18, 2013 - Humpback Whale Calf Freed of Life-Threatening Entanglement

On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, a response effort to free an entangled humpback whale calf was mounted and the animal was successfully disentangled. This is the first successful disentanglement of the 2013/2014 whale season.

The animal was first sighted on Sunday, December 15. The animal had a tight wrap of line around its body just forward off its pectoral flippers. The entanglement was considered life threatening as the animal was rapidly growing into the tightly wrapped gear.

Entangled Humpback Whale
Humpback whale calf with entanglement. A special knife is attached to a pole to cut the whale free.
Photo Credit: HIHWNMS/ NOAA MMHSRP permit # 932-1905

On Wednesday, the tour vessel Na Pili Explorer re-sighted the entangled calf off Manele Bay, Lanai, and a second response was mounted aboard the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary's response vessel. At 16:21 HST, on the third attempt, a specially designed knife was used to cut the wrap entangling the animal.

The effort was lead by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary), working closely with trained personnel from NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Pole camera
The entanglement is wrapped around the calf's body right in front of the pectoral fins.
Photo Credit: HIHWNMS/ NOAA MMHSRP permit # 932-1905

Several tour vessels, including Maui Adventure Cruises vessel, Na Pili Explorer, Safari Explorer, and the Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Odyssey worked together to monitor the animal while a response was mounted. Special thanks to Grant Thompson for designing and fabricating the knife that cut the animal free, and to the U.S Coast Guard for their continued assistance.

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 channel. 16.

Entangled Humpback Whale
Trained staff is using a special knife to disentangle the calf.
Photo Credit: HIHWNMS/ NOAA MMHSRP permit # 932-1905

The sanctuary which is administered by a partnership of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaiʻi through the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), protects humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiian waters where they migrate each winter to mate, calve, and nurse their young.

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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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