In 1966, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed the humpback whale in protected status in order to decrease the large-scale, but often-illegal killing of these marine mammals. Though this population does see an estimated growth of 7% per year, worldwide estimates of the humpback whale remain small.
It is then no surprise that a humpback whale with a fishing line wrapped around its tale, made local news after a video was taken of the whale’s ordeal. By the time experienced personnel arrived KI-TV Honolulu reported that, “the line had cut deep wounds into the 30-foot whale. The weakened animal also had parasites and shark bites,” thus underscoring its precarious health.
A team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund worked together to free the whale.
Using knives attached to a long pole and a cutting grapple, the team of officials, which also included personnel from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, cut and grappled with the material until they were able to remove most of the fishing gear on the whale.
Interestingly, NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program has released a number of videos demonstrating how individuals should behave and what they should do ahead of the arrival of more talented crew members. First, NOAA instructs individuals to follow the whale and establish a close approach toward the entangled whale. Individuals are then expected to throw the “grapple” and attempt to cut off the entanglement. Finally, a fixed knife could be use to make any final cuts.
Still, the safer option for individuals would be to maintain a distance of 100 yards from the animal and contact authorities. NOAA Fisheries can be reached at 888-256-9840.