The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary marked its 13th anniversary by announcing it has freed 22 large whales from life threatening entanglements since its 2002 inception. Also, nearly 10,000 feet of larger gauge line has been recovered from entangled whales during rescue operations by the Hawaiian Island Disentanglement Network.
The sanctuary and partners have also helped free many other marine animals including monk seals, sea turtles, dolphins, and mantas; The primary objective of HIHWNMS is to work with our partners and the public in order to reduce the threat in the future for humpback whales as well as other species, according to Superintendent Malia Chow.
HIHWNMS is releasing newly edited footage and images from the most recent large whale disentanglement in February 2015; the group is also planning to release unique imagery of a compelling 2013 rescue of a young humpback, the first calf ever cut free by the team, according to Chow.
The 2013 footage shows a humpback whale calf with a life-threatening tight wrap of line around its body, being accompanied by its mother. The crew used a specially designed knife on a long pole to cut the line and free the calf. The rescue that occurred earlier this year documents the disentanglement of an adult humpback whale with tight wraps of heavy gauge line around its tail and trailing hundreds of feet behind.
Marine mammal entanglement, or “by-catch,” is a global problem that results in the death of hundred of thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals every year. For large whales, the impact is typically not immediate as the animals can pull gear off the ocean floor and swim off with it.
However, freeing a 45-ton animal in the open ocean is dangerous for animals and rescuers. As a result, response requires authorization and permits under NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and the state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Responders, as seen in the imagery, are well trained and equipped.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary works with its partners–NOAA Fisheries, Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard, fishermen, the tour industry, and others–to lead a community-based network to respond to large whales in life threatening entanglements.
For more information, or to see the imagery, visit Hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/res/entanglement.html.