Experts share tips to better help part of Hawaii's marine life

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Apr 04 2014 06:37:59 PM HST
Updated On: Apr 04 2014 08:48:38 PM HST

The NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Response Network is looking for two humpbacks whales entangled in marine debris who are in need of rescue.

HONOLULU -

It is not all smiles as we reach the end of the regular whale season; some wounded and dying because of human mess.

Click here to watch Lara Yamada's story.

Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are offering some tips on how to help the mammals without doing more harm.

"There are a lot of things out there that are impacted by marine debris," said David Schofield of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Marine Mammal Response.

That includes the many humpbacks that frequent Hawaii waters.

Right now, the Fisheries Marine Mammal Response network is looking for two whales in trouble; one last spotted Wednesday off Lahaina, Maui.

"This whale is really having a bad day. It's got multiple entanglements," said Schofield.

Another whale was spotted Monday off Kauai's west side. It is reported to be an adult about the size of a school bus with either discarded fishing gear or old marine debris tangled in its tail, wrapped around its body, caught in its fin and cutting across its mouth.

"We've seen animals where it's become so badly imbedded that this will become necrotic and it will eventually fall off," said Schofield.

He says the numbers are up; 14 entanglement sightings this year. Schofield suspects that could be due to more watchful eyes and more people trying to help, but he warns that can create a different problem. It is a concern where people cut off the most visible bit of debris and leave the less obvious, but most damaging part.

"That's the only way we the responders can find the whale," said Schofield.

In recent months there have been stories of distress countered by stories of success. In February, NOAA rescue teams freed a humpback tied up and seriously hurt by thin fishing line. The trailing white buoy helped to track the whale.

NOAA says many, including tour operators, have been a huge help by spotting injured whales, staying with it and then calling the experts to do the job the right way. It helps preserve a spectacular sight in our ocean waters.

Experts also say to beware of whales that sometimes sit on the water like a log. They're skin can be covered with whale lice that makes the mammal appear light white or yellow-orange. Sometimes, you can see shoulder blades and a neck which should not be visible.

Officials do not recommend approaching the whales, but rather trail it and call (888) 256-9840 for the response team. Boaters on the water can call the Coast Guard on Channel 16.

Experts say the public has been an immense help and they just want to keep people helping the right way.

PHOTOS: Whale entanglements in Hawaii waters

Click here for photos of whale entanglements in Hawaii waters.

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