Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The search is on for an entangled whale...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Search is on for another entangled whale off Kona Island

By Carolyn Lucas
West Hawaii Today

Marine experts and divers are searching the waters off the Kona Coast for a humpback whale entangled in polypropylene line, deflated buoys and other fishing gear.

They warned against anyone trying to free the whale themselves, however. Disentangling these 45-ton creatures is extremely dangerous and requires a special permit.

While conducting a whale watching tour, Casey Cho, of Adventure X Rafting, first spotted and followed the tangled whale Monday afternoon about a mile off Hapuna Beach.

"The rope had deeply cut through the flesh of the whale in three places. In some areas, the flesh had grown over the ropes. It was very upsetting and sad to see such a horrible ordeal happening to a beautiful creature," Cho said.

Capt. Beth Goodwin, of Liquid Robotics, relieved Cho and continued following the whale in her vessel until response teams from the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on the Big Island and Maui arrived.

The sanctuary crews were able to briefly assess the whale, thought to be an adult, and its situation just before dark. They placed a satellite tag on the animal to track its movements and decided to postpone the rescue effort until early yesterday morning, said Justin Viezbicke, marine conservation coordinator for NOAA's Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Rescuers found no whale yesterday, just the tag, which the animal had managed to shake off. They spent several hours searching for the whale, but were unsuccessful, Viezbicke said.

"Every entanglement is life-threatening at some point," he said. "This whale looked emaciated and its health was compromised. We don't know where the fishing gear is from, how long the whale has been tangled, the severity of its injuries or how long it will survive."

There have been up to six reports this season of entangled whales statewide and two whales were freed, Viezbicke said. Those who see an entangled or distressed whale should immediately report it by calling (888) 256-9840.

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