Entangled Whale on Kauai March 2017

Photo by Jessie Abirached

On March 4, 2017 an Entangled Humpback Whale was seen and photographed by our Kauai Searider Adventure Tour vessel and other operators off the South shore of Kaua’i about 300 yards from Koloa Landing in Po’ipu.  Sea Riders Crew noticed Tiger Sharks following the whale and it seemed malnourished and covered in whale lice. Trained as First Responders, our crew immediately notified the (NOAA) Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Entanglement Response team in Maui. We were given permission to get closer than the 100 yard rule to assess the 40 foot animal and we believe the trained team could have arrived in time to cut the lines free and give it a chance if we were able to relocate it.

You can read the article in the Garden Island Newspaper here.

The first step in disentangling the whale is to attach a telemetry buoy which will transmit a signal as the whale surfaces. After it was reported on Sunday a joint effort was formed: NOAA Fisheries, USCG, DLNR and Sea Riders to track the whale and attempt a rescue. But the whale was lost because of a lack of standby support on Sunday. For the next few days we searched for the animal using multiple search patterns. There was a light and variable wind so visibility and sea conditions were excellent.  We saw alot of healthy whales and tons of nets and debris, but not the entangled whale!

I want to point out to all ocean users that we need your help to communicate and have eyes on the ocean,” it takes a village” as they say.  BUT, it is extremely dangerous for untrained people to try and disentangle a whale and the best way we can help is to report any sightings to the NOAA 24/7 response hotline at 1-888-256-9840.

We learned a lot from this encounter but it was frustrating too! Kudos to the team from Maui who rallied to get to Kaua’i on the day the animal was first spotted. I just wish we would have been able to put a tracking buoy on the animal immediately, so that resources weren’t wasted.  We are working on getting a telemetry buoy for next year (any ideas for a KickStarter campaign are welcome!)

Millions of Metric TONs of Marine Debris, such as plastics and netting are at an all time high in the world’s oceans. When people ask me what they can do to help the animals of the sea (Reef Communities, Whales, Dolphin, Seals, Turtles, Sea Birds); I always say that taking care of trash by reducing, re-using, recycling is the biggest and most profound and attainable way to make a difference. Each and every community throughout the world and even landlocked countries affect the ocean with their garbage and since the earth is 70% water, overall global health and every habitat is at risk.

Here’s some of the marine debris we collected after 3 days of searching for the entangled whale.  The variable winds brought in an immense amount of garbage.

Ocean clean-up is necessary!  Mahalo to all who help pick up trash from beaches and boaters who take the time to bring debris back to land for proper disposal. Surfrider.org always welcome volunteers and don’t be surprised if you go on a Sea Riders charter and ride home with a net or two!

Overwhelmed and Humbled,

Captain Tara- Marine Biologist