Whale rescuers encounter three consecutive distressed whales

Published On: Dec 19 2013 12:33:00 PM HST

Ed Lyman/NOAA

Tangled whale calf first sighted on Dec 15, 2013. It was eventually freed after three attempts, using a specially designed knife.

HONOLULU -

Back to back to back. Whale rescue first responders encounter three distressed whales in consecutive days off of Hawaiian Waters.

In mid-December, a group of whale rescue responders from the Pacific Whale Foundation was conducting a three-day training exercise to naturalists and ship captains  what to do if they encounter a distressed whale.  

What they encountered was on the spot training.

The first encounter included a subadult Humpback Whale with damage to its fluke about 3 miles off Launiopoko, Maui. While the whale did not show signs of entanglement, it was missing a large chunk of its fluke. The crew lost sight of the whale while the rescue operation was being transferred to another vessel.

The next day they found an entangled humpback whale calf that was being escorted by its mother. After attempting several times to cut the lines off the calf using a specialized knife, the rescue became too risky and was aborted.

Early the next morning another subadult humpback whale was found wrapped several times by a red, small gauge line that additionally trailed 60 feet behind it. Similarly, the whale was lost before action could be taken.

Officials with PWF say that an average of seven whales are confirmed entangled in Hawai'i waters each winter. As of mid-December, a little over a month into the whale watch season,  vessels from the PWF have confirmed four entanglements in Maui County waters.

For a more detailed account of the mission click here.

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