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Crews Respond to Entangled Humpback off Maui

Entangled humpback whale off Maui, 2.17.19. PC: Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP, Permit: #18786-08

By Wendy Osher

A team of trained responders is attempting to locate and assist a humpback whale that was first reported entangled off the coast of Maui over the weekend.

The entanglement was reported by the tour vessel Cane Fire on Sunday morning, Feb. 17, 2019.

Ed Lyman, the Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary described the entanglement as “very difficult” saying the configurations of gear and ocean conditions were particularly challenging.

A the team of responders, coordinated by the HIHWNMS and authorized under NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, mounted a two-day effort to free the adult humpback.

“After attempts to disentangle the whale, a final action was taken to cut the whale free of gear,” said Lyman.  While some gear was removed, including the entangling buoy, the animal remained entangled as of Tuesday afternoon.

Lyman said the gear recovered will provide information about where the whale is from, helping to mitigate future threats.

“Responders must always weigh the risk to personnel and potential further harm to the entangled whale. If the entangled whale is located again, the network is prepared to respond,” said Lyman.

If an entangled whale, including this one is sighted, the public is asked not to try to free the animal themselves.  “Trying to free a 40-ton, 45-foot whale is extremely dangerous, hence requiring authorization,” said Lyman. Instead, the public is asked to call the NOAA Hotline (888 256-9840) or the US Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16.