POSTED: 12:06 p.m. HST, Apr 7, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 12:27 p.m. HST, Apr 7, 2014
A response team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sunday afternoon freed an entangled humpback whale in waters off Lahaina.
The entangled young humpback was first spotted and monitored by Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Discovery on Sunday morning. Ultimate Whale Watch's Wiki Wahine and West Maui Rapid Response Team's response vessel, Aloha Kai, also assisted in monitoring the whale before an authorized response team on board the sanctuary's response vessel arrived at the scene.
The entanglement involved a braided fishing line running through the animal's mouth and trailing about 120 feet behind to a pair of buoys on one end of the line. While the whale was still in good condition, the entanglement was life-threatening, and would have impacted the animal's ability to feed on its trip to high-latitude feeding grounds.
At about 12:30 p.m., the response team was able to pull the line from mouth, freeing it of all gear. The animal is expected to make a full recovery and was last seen heading north.
The number of sightings in Hawaii waters of humpback whales entangled in fishing lines, nets and other marine debris has more the doubled during the current migration season, reaching a record high of 15.
From November through May, their seasonal migration from Alaska brings an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 humpbacks to Hawaii waters -- a large jump from the 1,000 estimated in 1978. During the November 2012-May 2013 season, there were six sightings of entangled whales.
Sunday's efforts were led by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working closely with trained personnel from NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Corps, the West Maui Rapid Response Team and trained responders.
If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, please maintain the required distance of 100 yards and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840, or the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.