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NOAA, DLNR, USCG work to free entangled whale

LIHU‘E — As of Monday, the adult humpback whale first spotted off Po‘ipu in mid-January has had between 2,300 and 2,500 feet of heavy-gauge line removed from its body, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

NOAA was first alerted to the entanglement on Jan. 16, and mobilized a joint response with the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard.

During this first response, NOAA discovered some of the gear originated from the whale’s mouth, which can impact its ability to feed.

The humpback whale was emaciated, light-colored and rough-skinned with patches of whale lice, NOAA said. The team removed about 2,000 feet of high-gauge line this operation before more or less losing track of the whale as a telemetry buoy self-released.

Last Friday, Wings over Kaua‘i sighted the entangled whale off the southeast coast of Kaua‘i and contacted NOAA. The Kaua‘i response team was on-sight within two hours.

The team collected drone and underwater footage, confirming it was the same whale as before. At this time, the whale lice now covered its entire body.

Using a specialized throwing cutting grapple, the team removed an estimated 300 to 500 feet of line on the left side of the whale’s mouth. About 15 feet of line was not able to be removed because of its embedded location on the back of the whale’s mouth.

“While the whale’s future is unknown, it hopefully is under less stress and has a better chance of survival now that we’ve removed the majority of the line,” NOAA said. “Responders will continue to study the gear to determine its identity and possible origin.”

Members of the public who spot an entangled whale are encouraged to call the statewide NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 888-256-9840 to alert authorized responders. If cell service is unavailable, call the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

“Our goal is to safely free large whales from life-threatening entanglements,” NOAA said. “At the same time, we try to gather valuable information that will reduce the frequency and impacts of entanglements in the future.”


Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or
Source: The Garden Island

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