Just a brief note on that story about the humpback whale that got entangled in electrical cable a couple days ago. Isn’t that just so sad? That poor whale somehow got a mass of heavy cable entangled in its mouth, and it’s no wonder Hawaii News Now, The Maui News and Maui Now have all run stories on it. Even now, though the whale is apparently doing better, there’s still a mass of wire embedded deep in its mouth.
“Sunday’s assessments by the response team revealed that the gear was heavy-gauge (~ 5/8”) electrical cable,” states a Mar. 13 news release on the whale sent out by officials with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “The team used cable cutters to cut both cables leading to the whale’s mouth. It is estimated that around 500 feet of cable was removed from the animal with little gear remaining. The cable had already embedded itself too deeply at the back of the whale’s mouth to pull out remaining gear. However, this represents a significant improvement and the animal illustrated this in its movements and behaviors afterwards. The source of the gear, which is a PVC-insulated electrical-type cable, is still unknown.”
The rescue efforts took two days and involved personnel from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the U.S. Coast Guard, Maui Ocean Safety, the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission and the West Maui response team. It’s a delicate operation requiring very specialist marine and biological knowledge and experience.
Knowledge and experience that President Donald Trump can’t wait to eviscerate. Seriously, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of a whale rescue, but it’s also easy to forget that many of the whale’s rescuers work for agencies that Trump has pledged to slash. NOAA is staring at a proposed 17 percent budget cut, which will amount to about $950 million. Trump also wants to cut $1.3 billion from the Coast Guard’s budget, which comes to about 14 percent of its annual budget.
Whale rescues are heart-warming and wonderful, but the agencies that carry them out won’t be able to do them if Trump insists on starving them of funds for whatever damn-fool reason he’s mouthing this week (a border wall, mean Saturday Night Live sketches, microwave oven surveillance devices, etc.).
Oh, and if you happen to see any marine mammal in distress, stay at least 100 yards away and call the NOAA 24-hour hotline at 1-888 256-9840. If you can’t call, radio the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF CH. 16 and they will relay the report.
Photo of humpback whale off Maui: Jkrauska/Wikimedia Commons