East Hawaii News

HIHWNMS Celebrates 13 Years of Rescues

June 17, 2015, 8:21 AM HST
* Updated June 17, 8:35 AM
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With a total of over 9,500 feet of line and 22 free whales since 2002, the close of the whale season marks 13 years of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary rescuing whales with the Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network.

In its 13 years, HIHWNMS and its partners have also freed marine animals that were not whales, including sea turtles, mantas, dolphins, and monk seals, with the aim to work together to gain information in order to reduce the threat in the future for humpback whales and other species.

The entanglement of marine mammals is a global problem that kills thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals. Sometimes, larger whales can pull the gear off on their own using the ocean floor. Others are not so fortunate.

Rescuers must use precision and caution when they free marine mammals. Due to the danger, a rescue requires responders to be properly authorized and permitted under the NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and the State of Hawai’i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The responders are also well-trained and properly equipped.

In 2013, a humpback whale calf was observed to have a life-threatening line tightly wrapped around its body. HIHWNMS crew used a specialty knife on a long pole to cut the line free. The whale, accompanied by its mother, was set free.

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More recently, in February 2015, an adult humpback whale was found with tight wraps of heavy gauge line around its tail. The line trailed the whale by hundreds of feet. Rescuers freed the whale using a similar technique as the 2013 rescue.

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HIHWNMS works with partner agencies, including NOAA Fisheries, Hawai’i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The agency also works alongside fishermen, the tour industry, and others to lead its community-based network which focuses on responding to large whales that have found themselves in life-threatening entanglement situations.

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2/20/15, cut made. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15, cut made. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. N. Davis/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. N. Davis/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. King/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/20/15. King/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/22/15, gear. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

2/22/15, gear. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP photo.

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