Humpback Untangled from Ocean Netting

NOAA photo of ensnared whale
NOAA photo of ensnared whale
David Schofield
David Schofield

WEST MAUI (KHNL)  It's the second humpback whale in two months that has been disentangled. The 45-foot long humpback whale was spotted this past Sunday off the leeward coast of Maui.

When a response team from National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration fisheries arrived on the scene, the adult female humpback was stuck in a gnarled mess of marine debris - more than a 100 pounds of one-inch thick line.

"It was entangled fairly severely in its tail shaft which is the area where the tail stock meets the fluke that goes up and down it was embedded into that tissue down below the skin, blubber and possibly into the muscle layer," said David Schofield from NOAA Fisheries Services.

It was a severe entanglement that could have caused injury or death. The humpback whale had been entangled for quite some time. She was first spotted back in January.

"So the animal was trailing that gear for over a month until it could be removed by the disentanglement team."

NOAA fisheries worked with the Dolphin Institute and the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium to help save the whale. It was an effort that took the entire day.

"They actually put devices on the animal to slow it down, floating buoys with hooks that was already attached to the line, to the whale," said Schofield.

This is the second humpback whale to get in trouble in Hawaiian waters this year.

Last month, a humpback got stuck in fishing gear and large flotation devices in waters off Big Island. This has become a big concern for marine experts.

"It's an alarming trend given that were only half way through what we call the whale season which can extend to May."

If you believe you have seen an entangled whale, please call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at (888) 256-9840 as soon as possible.