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December 10 - Young humpback whale freed from entangling line in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale
National Marine Sanctuary

A young humpback whale, heavily entangled in longline monofilament, had most of that life-threatening line removed by NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program team off Kīhei, Maui on Wednesday December 10, 2014.

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

The entangled whale was likely a yearling and had multiple wraps of heavy gauge, red monofilament longline wrapped around its tail, with bundles of gear trailing. The lines were wrapped around and cutting into the tailstock, resulting in deep wounds. The animal was thin, covered with parasites, and had shark bites on its tail.

The initial report came from the Maui County Ocean Safety Life Guards. They were able to monitor the 30-foot whale until the authorized response team arrived aboard the sanctuary response vessel Koholā.

Using knives on a long pole and a cutting grapple, the team was able to remove nearly all of the entangling gear, and it is hoped the remaining line will be shed over time. The recovered gear will be analyzed to better understand the impacts of entanglement, in an effort to reduce the threat in the future.

Pole camera
Trained and authorized personnel uses special knife to free whale from entanglement.
Photo Credit: E. Lyman / HIHWNMS / NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP Permit # 932-1905

This is the first large whale entanglement response of the 2014-15 whale season as the humpback whales return from summer feeding grounds in Alaska. Entanglement is one of the major threats to these animals.

The efforts were lead by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working closely with trained personnel from NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, NOAA Corps and the West Maui Response Team.

If you see an entangled or distressed whale, please call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 888-256-9840 or radio the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16. Do not approach the animal, and maintain the required 100 yds.

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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.

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