Entangled Humpback Whale Near Iliuliuk Bay, AK Successfully Cut Free

By fisheries.noaa.gov.

The response, in a remote community, took several days and involved a broad array of partner agencies, organizations, and local trained volunteers.

A humpback whale was entangled in fishing gear in Iliuliuk Bay, near the Port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Due to the efforts of NOAA, partners, and local trained volunteers, it was successfully cut free.

The entangled whale was first reported to NOAA Fisheries on the afternoon of April 1. The whale appeared to be anchored in place, though it was in good condition and able to breathe regularly. However, it was precariously anchored in a high vessel traffic area on the edge of the main shipping lane in Iliuliuk Bay.

Our Alaska Marine Mammal Entanglement Response Network partners at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game responded. They were able to gather informative underwater imagery on April 2 using a GoPro pole camera. This enabled the team to better understand the configuration and severity of the entanglement and develop an action plan. The underwater video revealed that the entanglement looped through the whale’s mouth and was wrapped just forward of the whale’s flukes. The whale was essentially hog-tied. The entangling line continued from the tail down to a heavy, unknown anchoring source in approximately 100 feet of water, holding the whale in place. The video also confirmed that the whale was a subadult male. He had likely not been entangled for long. It showed strategic cutting of the entangling gear had a good chance of freeing this whale.

Two NOAA large whale entanglement response experts flew out to Unalaska to lead the disentanglement effort—Ed Lyman, Large Whale Entanglement Coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary from Maui, Hawaii, and Sadie Wright, Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator for the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region from Juneau, Alaska.

read more at fisheries.noaa.gov.