PHOTOS: Search on for Entangled Whale by Lahaina
By David Kvasnicka
A search is underway for an entangled whale that was spotted around 1.5 miles from Lahaina Harbor on Monday, Nov. 11 at around 4 p.m.
The struggling juvenile humpback was spotted by a Pacific Whale Foundation vessel that was returning from a 2 p.m. whale-watch cruise.
“We spotted a blow ahead of us, on the way to the harbor,” relayed PWF senior vessel staff person Sierra Frye-Keele. “As we got closer, we noticed that the whale didn’t seem to be lifting its fluke (tail) out of the water as it dove. We eventually realized that the tail area was entangled in what appeared to be a large, green polypropylene line.”
The vessel made contact with a rescue team from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The PWF vessel stayed with the whale with its overdue passengers until the raft Great White arrived at 4:40 p.m. and agreed to stay with the whale until the rescue team arrived.
“Unfortunately the animal continued north toward a windline, started doing longer dives and began traveling faster, along with the diminishing light, this made monitoring the animal very challenging. As a result the animal was lost sight of just prior to our arrival,” said Ed Lyman, large whale entanglement response coordinator with the Sanctuary.
“Ocean Discovery and Great White did great monitoring the animal,” said Lyman. “Early on when the crew of Ocean Discovery was monitoring the animal it was traveling slowly with short dive intervals. Time, that wind line, and a change in the animal’s behavior worked against us all.”
The PWF and Sanctuary are asking the public to be on the lookout for the entangled humpback (or any entangled marine life).
Spotters are asked to immediately call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Fisheries hotline at (888) 256-9840 and collect as much information as possible (e.g. location, speed, direction traveling). Pictures and videos will also help teams better assess the situation.
PWF Conservation Manager Lauren Campbell notes that smaller entangled sea life can “quickly die,” while large whales can drag gear for “days and months” – though this does give rescue teams a greater chance of saving the animal.
Campbell warned the public to never attempt to disentangle a whale themselves.
The Sanctuary coordinates the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network, a community-based network that works closely with NOAA Fisheries, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the US Coast Guard to safely respond to marine animals in distress.
Since its inception in 2002, the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network claims to have successfully freed 17 whales of entangling gear, and in the process removed over 7,000 feet of line.
The PWF requires its crews to be trained in whale entanglement response and invites all vessel operators to attend its free course at a to-be-determined date in December.