Boaters and shoreside observers along the Washington and British Columbia coasts are being asked to watch for a humpback whale dragging lines with buoys attached.

When the Cascadia team first encountered the humpback whale, it had multiple lines wrapped around it. The line around its head was one of those later cut off. (Click to enlarge)
Photo courtesy of Cascadia Research

John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research in Olympia called me last night to report that his crew had failed to find the whale yesterday after helping to free the animal of several tangled lines attached to multiple crab pots the day before.

Work on Thursday off La Push involved cutting lines to free the head, back and tail of the humpback. Short video segments, which can be downloaded from Cascadia’s website, reveal how difficult this work was for the crew, consisting of Calambokidis, Jeff Foster and Annie Douglas.

As the crew struggled to free the lines Thursday, the wind and seas became rough and hard to deal with, so team returned to shore to get additional tools they would need to free the whale, John said in a report on Cascadia’s website. “They had also sustained self-inflicted damage to their boat during the effort (a puncture of one of the pontoons) that was repaired on the 13th (Thursday),” he wrote.

Even though the whale was not found yesterday, John said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the animal is OK, though it probably still has some lines attached.

He said the whale may have become more mobile as a result of the crew’s success in freeing some of the lines. A fisherman Thursday night apparently saw the animal about a mile from where it had become entangled.

Friday’s search by boat failed to spot the whale or pickup a signal from a VHF transmitter that had been attached to one of the buoys. The transmitter has a range of about 10 miles but does not transmit under water, so either the whale moved a good distance from where it was or else the buoy had somehow become submerged.

The Coast Guard has been transmitting a message up and down the coast asking mariners to watch for the whale.

The Cascadia Team as well as Makah tribal boats are on standby this weekend to rescue the whale if it is sighted. Anybody who spots the animal is asked to report the location but not approach the animal or cut any lines, since the VHF transmitter is probably still attached.

The national Marine Mammal Hotline to call with reports is 1-800-853-1964.

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Source: Watching Our Water Ways

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