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Whale Entanglement Team (WET) Involved in Freeing Entangled Humpback on 5/10/16




Adult humpback whale entangled in fishing gear was first reported Tuesday morning off Point Pinos by fisherman Calder Deyerle and his 5-year old son, Miles, who immediately reported the whale. Miles insisted they stay with the whale until the response team arrived because, as he said, "saving an injured animal is more important." Their willingness to stand by was vital to the success of this whale being freed.

Kate Spencer, member of the entanglement network and owner of Fast Raft Ocean Safaris, was first on scene and Marine Life Studies' Whale Entanglement Team (WET)® arrived shortly thereafter in our Whale Rescue Research Vessel. WET℠ crew included Stephanie Marcos, Winnie Mulé, Connie Sanchez, Serge McCabe Verriele, and Peggy Stap. 


Kate had to return to port with her passengers so WET℠ stayed with the whale to monitor and do assessment of the entanglement while the rest of the network team responders assembled. While observing the humpback whale, it began feeding in a typical manner called lateral lunge feeding. This is where the whale pushes fish to the surface and lunges through a shoal of prey with its mouth gaping open, exploding at the surface on its side. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a primary feeding ground for humpback whales and many other species of whales and dolphins.  Click here to see video of the entangled whale feeding.


Marine Life Studies' Whale Entanglement Team (WET)℠ at work.


After the humpback finished feeding it started traveling south. WET® continued to monitor the entangled humpback. When the responders with the entanglement network arrived on scene, John Douglas (JD) 


with Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) along with Scott Benson and Karin Forney, both with NOAA in MLML ZHT rib, we conferred with them and transferred the telemetry buoy along with specialized tools including a underwater video camera on 30' pole. By this time Bob Talbot with Talbot Films arrived to assist in his Nautica rib.

Scott attached the telemetry buoy to the fishing gear trailing behind the whale with the help of Karin; and JD's excellent skills as captain (photo left). They proceeded to capture underwater
footage of the blue steel line that was wrapped under the tail stock of the whale and over top of its fluke.

Click here to see video of Scott attaching telemetry buoy.

Scott then boarded our Whale Rescue Research Vessel to view the video he shot and photos of the whale taken during our assessment. Stephanie took screen shots of the video showing the entanglement (photos below). Then she sent them to NOAA and Pieter Folkens, our Level 4 for northern California to review. Scott conferred with NOAA entanglement specialists, Jamison Smith, Justin Viezbicke, and Ed Lyman along with Pieter to develop the protocol for cutting the line free. Every entanglement is different, so careful planning is needed to ensure the safety of the whale and the responders during the cutting process.   

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Once the protocol to make the cut that would free the entangled humpback from the crab pot line and buoys was carefully planned, Scott was given the go ahead to proceed. The whale had continued traveling south and was now south of Pt. Lobos. While we continued to monitor the entangled whale we had a surprise - a fin whale surface next to the it. Click here to see video of fin whale surfacing.

Once Scott received the authorization from NOAA to make the cut, the specialized cutting tools were then transferred from our Whale Rescue Research Vessel to the ZHT rib where Scott, Karin, and JD prepared the tools and approached the whale to make the cut. The plan was successful and Scott was able to make the cut that freed the whale. It was an exciting moment for all of us to see the humpback whale continue swimming south free of the gear. Hooray!


Responders involved in this rescue included Fast Raft Ocean Safaris, Marine Life Studies' Whale Entanglement Team (WET)℠, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and Talbot Films. Responders are all members of the CWR network. This whale rescue was performed under NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program Permit #18786.

We want to thank fisherman Calder Deyerle and his 5-year old son, Miles, for staying with the whale until rescuers arrived as that is so important and made this a successful disentanglement that freed the whale. Thank you Calder and Miles! 


To learn more about Marine Life Studies' Whale Entanglement Team (WET)® click here. 

If you see an entangled whale, please call 877-SOS-WHALE or hail the USCG on Ch 16.


Additional photos below:

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 Humpback whale surfacing trailing crab pot buoys. Photo by Winnie Mulé.  Crab pot line over top of the fluke. Photo by Stephanie Marcos.
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 Lateral lunge feed - mouth open with baleen exposed. Photo by Serge
 McCabe Verriele. 

 Lateral lunge feed - squeezing water out through baleen. Photo by Serge
 McCabe Verriele.
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 Scott attempting to cut blue steel line. Photo by Winnie Mulé.  Scott celebrating after making cut. Photo by Winnie Mulé.



















































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