NOAA marine mammal team responds to first reported whale entanglement of the season
Juneau, AK — NOAA marine mammal experts deployed Tuesday afternoon on their first operation of the year to disentangle a whale from fishing gear in Southeast Alaska.
An Alaska Seaplane pilot Tuesday morning sighted a pair of humpbacks trailing an orange buoy in Young Bay, near Admiralty Island, heading towards the Greens Creek dock.
Trained marine mammal responders from NOAA’s Alaska regional office and the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute responded rapidly, in coordination with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. Upon arrival at the scene, they discovered a mother and calf, with the calf entangled.
The team was able to attach a telemetry tag to the trailing fishing gear so they could track where the whales went overnight by satellite.
By Wednesday morning, data showed the tagged calf had traveled about 50 nautical miles overnight, but had done a large circle to return to the area where it was tagged. While looking for the whales Wednesday morning, the response team located the telemetry tag in Young Bay, but it was no longer attached to a whale. The animal had worked its way free.
“We recovered the gear and satellite tag this morning,” said marine mammal specialist Kate Savage. “Fortunately, the calf was able to shed the fishing gear on its own.”
The responders recovered about 300 feet of fishing line and the buoy, which appeared to be personal crab pot gear. While setting gear this summer, Southeast Alaskans are advised to reduce scope on gear where possible and ensure that gear is not soaking when not in active use to prevent these types of incidents. This is especially important as the North Pacific humpback whale population continues to recover; more and more humpback whales use Southeast Alaskan waters every year to feed.
After recovering the gear, the team was not able to re-sight the humpback whale pair.
If you see a whale or other marine mammal in distress, report it right away to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Hotline at (877) 925-7773.
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