News Splash™

Entangled humpback whale calf Thanksgiving weekend


Whale Entanglement Team (WET)® responded Saturday, 11/25/17, after receiving call about entangled whale in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

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Marine Life Studies' Whale Rescue Research Vessel with WET® crew
arrive on scene to start assessment of the entanglement.
Notice the double line tightly wrapped around body between blowhole
and dorsal fin of humpback whale calf.


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During the assessment phase, team noticed that double line wrapped 
around body had begun to separate.
Notice how the line across the body on the left of the photo is now 
just one strand. The older looking line was first seen trailing behind the
whale, but later moved and draped over the back of the animal.












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Notice how the older trailing line has moved over body to the right to
tip of dorsal of the humpback calf, about to fall off.
All lines have now fallen away from the calf. We verified no other line on the
body, but could see line under the surface of the water trailing a short distance
beyond fluke. 












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Then, the calf began breaching; most likely to dislodge the last of the line that may have been partially in the mouth or loosely wrapped around the right pec fin. During the assessment phase, we knew there was no line wrapped around the left pec fin but were unable to confirm right pec as the mom continued to come between the calf and our vessel.

While the calf breached multiple times, we were able to observe that no lines were wrapped around pec fins or through the mouth on both the right and left, as well as no lines wrapped around body at fluke insertion nor around the fluke. The calf, indeed, threw the gear on its own. This is a known outcome that can happen, but we were ready to take the necessary steps if a full disentanglement response was needed. This is the first time we observed the self-release process of an active entanglement.

















During the SPLASH project (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks) project 2004 through 2006, the most comprehensive study ever attempted of the North Pacific humpback whale poplulation.
Peggy Stap, founder of Marine Life Studies and co-founder of the WET®, was part of this project both in Maui and in Monterey Bay. One result from this study was that over 50% of humpback whales in the North Pacific had entanglement scars so we knew some of them were throwing the gear. What we did not know is how many have died from entanglements. The WET® crew was thrilled to see this calf free of the entanglement and swimming freely with mom.

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Calf fluke identification.

Fluke identification of the mother of the calf.

The underside of the humpback whale fluke is used to identify indivduals, just as a human fingerprint is different for each individual.




Be part of the team as the hardest part of saving whales is raising funds.Click here to donate through Monterey County Gives! and we will receive an addtional amount on top of your donation through the overall match. Click here to learn more about MC Gives! campaign.

"Marine Life Studies’ Whale Entanglement Team (WET)® is an integral part of saving whales in NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. WET® provides skilled expertise, tools, data collection, a support vessel and other assets to help save and disentangle whales from fishing gear. We are indebted to this team of dedicated volunteers for all their efforts to free whales, and thank them for their valuable service."

- Paul Michel, Superintendent, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary