KIHEI - Last week Monday, a response effort to free an entangled male humpback whale was mounted, and the animal was successfully disentangled.
The whale was found and reported by the tour vessel Man-of-War on March 8 near Lahaina.
The entanglement involved several wraps of small gauge line around the animal's tail, which was already cutting into the whale and making the entanglement life-threatening.
Using a fixed knife on a pole, the team cut line off the humpback whale. PHOTO COURTESY OF HIHWNMS/NOAA MMHSRP PERMIT #932-1905.
An immediate response was launched. The response team was not able to remove all of the gear by the end of the day, but they did cut free approximately 40 feet of trailing line.
In order to continue the effort, a satellite tag buoy was attached to the animal.
On Monday, when conditions allowed, the team relocated the whale between Kahoolawe and Lanai, and all entangling gear was removed.
The effort was led by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary working closely with National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries; however, many people and organizations were involved.
The response effort, working under NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, involved the sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA Corps, Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, West Maui Rapid Response Team, MacGillivray Freeman Films (currently filming an IMAX film on humpback whales), researchers, several tour and charter boat companies and many others.
Only three humpback whales have been reported and confirmed entangled this season - one-third of the number typically reported by this time of the season.
Last week Monday's efforts of various government agencies and ocean users working together represents the first successful response of the 2012-13 whale season.
According to the sanctuary, entanglement continues to be one of the primary threats to humpback whales and other cetaceans worldwide.