A trained team worked to free a humpback whale that was “hog-tied” in rope near the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
The entangled whale was spotted by a fishing group with Todd’s Extreme Fishing just before noon Thursday. The group stayed with the whale to monitor its location until the Makah Tribe and U.S. Coast Guard arrived to take over the watch.
“They did exactly the right thing by keeping their distance and watching the whale so the team could quickly find it,” said Kristin Wilkinson, regional coordinator of NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Northwest Large Whale Entanglement Response Network.
The operation to free the whale was complicated, because the ropes were running between its mouth and tail and had left the whale hogtied, according to team members.
The team cut the ropes at key points to remove almost all of the line, except for a small section that remained in the whale’s mouth. The crew believed that portion would likely fall out on its own.
The whale appeared to be in good condition and was swimming normally after the team removed the ropes.
It was unclear whether the ropes were attached to a crab trap or other fishing gear.
The response team included members from SR3: Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research; Cascadia Research Collective; the Makah Tribe; Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; and World Vets. Response teams must complete extensive training and work under a NOAA Fisheries permit.
Anyone spotting an entangled whale should report it to NOAA Fisheries’ 24/7 hotline by calling 877-SOS-WHALE (877-767-9425) or hailing the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. NOAA asks people to please stay with the whale as long as it is safe to do so, but never attempt disentanglement or remove any gear without training and authorization. Video or photos showing the entangling gear is helpful, but remember to stay 100 yards from the whale and watch for lines in the water.