A response team freed an entangled subadult humpback whale off Makena Beach, Maui on Wednesday.
A trained response team, coordinated by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, worked for hours Wednesday to remove a heavy duty gauge line caught in the whale’s mouth, forming a bridle trailing more than 200 feet behind.
The team included personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maui station, Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, NOAA Corps, Oceanwide Science Institute, Cardinal Point Captains and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
A Maui Dive Shop tour vessel dubbed the Makakoa reported the whale sighting at 9:10 a.m. The U.S. Coast Guard Maui team responded to the scene followed by the NOAA’s response vessel Kohola.
Numerous other vessels in the area assisted the response team that was en route by monitoring the whale and relaying information to them.
The Coast Guard boat arrived at 10:40 a.m. to assess the entanglement then deployed a working line with an attached tracking beacon. Kohola arrived shortly after and launched an inflatable boat. One of the bridle lines was cut and untwisted, but response team officials said the line was too deeply embedded in the whale’s mouth to pull it free.
By 12:30 p.m., the response team approached within a few feet of the whale’s tail to cut the other side of the bridle along with the trailing buoys. The team removed almost all the line to help improve the whale’s chances of surviving.
“However, a small amount of gear could not be pulled from the whale’s mouth and thus remains,” said NOAA’s Ed Lyman in a statement. “The recovered gear will be analyzed towards determining its possible origins and trying to reduce entanglement threat in the future.”
NOAA officials reported another entangled humpback whale off Lahaina, Maui in February. NOAA officials said the freed whale was not the entangled whale reported in February.
NOAA reminds the public do not approach or attempt to free an entangled whale themselves. Mariners should maintain a distance of 100 yards. Only trained NOAA officials are permitted to assist whale and other marine mammals, Lyman said.
Anyone who spots an entangled whale or marine mammal in distress may call the NOAA’s 24-hotline at 1-888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.