Peggy Stap of Marine Life Studies was out on their research vessel, Sweet Pea, in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with 3 interns as part of their Research Scientist Program on Saturday, July 5, 2014, when they noticed a small humpback whale with an injury to the tail stock at the fluke (tail). It was later confirmed that this humpback was the same whale that was disentangled in April 2014 by the Whale Entanglement Team (WET)℠. Stap is part of WET for Central California tasked to respond to whales entangled in fishing gear and marine debris.
The Whale Entanglement Team was called in on April 27, 2014 when an entangled humpback whale was reported in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by a local whale watch company. Stap was involved in the WET response to the whale along with many other team members of WET including Pieter Folkens (leader of WET), Kathi Koontz, Homer Holm, J.D. Douglas, Ryan Berger, Mary Whitney, Nina Rosen, Kate Cummings, and Doug Ross.
An extraordinary rescue effort by trained WET responders of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program along the Central California Coast followed over the next two-and-a-half weeks. Due to strong winds and heavy seas, the WET was prevented from fully disentangling the whale while in Monterey Bay, so they traveled down to Santa Barbara to finish the job. They successfully removed the last bit of line still wrapped around the tail stock and retrieved the Argos telemetry buoy they had attached up in Monterey Bay where they also successfully removed a crab pot weighing over a 100 lbs and 250' of blue steel line. The whale was freed on May 14, 2014 down in the Sanata Barbara Channel, which is part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
It was a great exercise for Stap's interns to help with the identification and documention of data when they sighted the previously disentangled whale on Saturday during their research boat surveys. The interns included Stephanie Marcos from Marina, a CSUMB student (California State University of Monterey Bay), Anna Hunter, a recent graduate from Galway, Ireland, and Maya Hoffman, a high school student from Denver School of Arts in Colorado.
Stap commented, "When we first spotted this whale I just knew it had to be the same whale we disentangled." It was not until Stap and her crew got off the water and downloaded all the photos to make comparsions did they confirm that it was in fact the whale that was successfully disentangled. The photos were sent to Pieter Folkens, who also verifed it was the same whale.
Marine Life Studies is a registered non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status. Donations and gifts are tax deductible. The interns were thrilled to be part of the re-sighting of this humpback whale. "A great ending to a miracle story! This is the 'fruit' of the amazing work of the WET. WET gave this little whale another chance at life! Remarkable day," stated Marcos. Hunter agreed adding, "The survival and continued healing of this whale proves that WET is an essential component off our coast." Hoffman recounted the experience: "When we came upon the humpback I was tasked with taking the data. I had to record each respiration [i.e. number of times it took a breath and how long it stayed under the surface between breaths.] It was a wonderful experience to see how the humpback was doing: living, healing and thriving, all thanks to WET"
The humpback whale was first sighted on Saturday was only 232 yards from where the team first sighted it on April 27, 2014. There is a great chance that spottings of this humpback will continue and that Marine Life Studies will be able to continue to monitor its healing process.
Stap said, "The last time I saw this whale is when we watched it swim free after disentangling it on May 14th in the Santa Barbara Channel. To know it swam all the way from there back to Monterey Bay is so amazing. The feeling of joy in my heart and the excitement was something I could not put into words. But knowing our efforts as the Whale Entanglement Team allowed this subadult humpback whale to have a chance to be a productive part of a population of whales that are on the endangered species list is special indeed."
Noozhawk reports on the re-sight with video - read more here.
If any one sights this humpback whale please stay 100 yards from the animal. Note the time, date and location (latitude/longitude) if you are able along with any photos. Please contact Marine Life Studies with the information at 831-901-3833 or contact us here