Race to find and free entangled humpback whales - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Race to find and free entangled humpback whales

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It's the end of whale season, but whale watching continues for two humpbacks entangled in fishing line somewhere in Hawaiian waters.

It has been a busy winter for experts working to find and free distressed marine mammals.

The majestic humpback whales are a sight to behold, jumping for joy, during their winters in the Hawaiian islands. But, this season, 14 were spotted entangled in fishing line, fighting for their lives.

David Schofield, Response Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries says, "We sometimes see entanglements around the body, through the mouth, around the pectoral flipper and a lot along the flukes."

Schofield coordinates response for distressed marine mammals, like an entangled humpback whale seen Monday off Kauai's west coast with line wrapped tightly around its tail fluke.

"That is what we consider a life threatening injury" adds Schofield.

Tour operators and fishermen are on the hunt. That's the only hope to save the entangled whale by cutting the line off as NOAA crews did for a humpback in February off Lahaina, Maui.

Schofield stresses you leave it to the pros. Last month, a good samaritan thought it helpful to cut off red buoys seen dangling from an entangled whale seen off Niihau.

"They actually cut the buoy and a little line off the whale" explains Schofield. He demonstrated why that's a problem, saying "It's more being impacted by these areas of entanglement than the drag of the buoy so please leave that buoy and line on because that's the only way we the responders can find the whale."

In 2011, an amazing rescue was caught on camera by the founders of the Great Whale Conservancy in the Sea of Cortez.

They found what appeared to be a dead humpback calf until it exhaled under duress.

Michael Fischbach dove in and discovered it was totally tangled.

Over the course of an hour, they cut off all of the synthetic net, pinning both pectoral fins and finally freed its fluke.

It was a moment celebrated by the crew and calf, who showed her thanks by breaching 40 times, before waving bye with her tail.

The result in this case was positive, but NOAA actually shows that video as an example of what not to do. You can view the entire 8 minute video at this link:


If you see an entangled whale, do not approach it or try to remove the obstruction. Call the hotline at this number (888) 256-9840.


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