Julie Speegle, (907) 586-7032 (office), (907) 321-7032 (cell)
Juneau, AK — NOAA’s marine mammal stranding experts are asking the public to report any sightings of an entangled adult humpback whale. The animal was last seen Wednesday swimming south near Windfall Harbor in Seymour Canal on the east side of Admiralty Island trailing about 150-feet of yellow floating line and beach ball-sized orange and pink buoys.
NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office in Juneau first received reports at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning that a humpback whale was entangled in an anchor line near Admiralty Island. When NOAA-trained responders arrived on the scene early afternoon, they discovered a 40-foot long, adult humpback whale swimming in a circular pattern between Windfall and Swan islands.
An authorized response team of five—including two staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, a member of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and two NOAA Fisheries staff trained in large whale response—assessed, documented, and made initial attempts to free the animal. The U.S. Forest Service provided valuable support toward the operation.
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and the team was not able to safely disentangle the whale. The effort was ended around 5:30 p.m. The multi-agency team was able to get a blubber sample from the whale for identification and health assessment purposes. They last observed the otherwise healthy-looking humpback swimming south toward the mouth of Seymour Canal.
Anyone sighting this entangled whale should maintain at least 100 yards distance, especially considering the risk of vessels becoming entangled in the floating line. Immediately call the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline at (877) 925-7773. If unable to call, please radio the US Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 and they will relay the report. Please report latitude, longitude, and direction the whale is swimming. If conditions and resources allow, an authorized team will attempt to free or otherwise assist the distressed animal.
Well-intentioned mariners should not free the whale themselves. Freeing a 40-ton animal that is likely stressed and doesn’t know you are there to help, is extremely dangerous. It poses risk of injury or even death to would-be rescuers and to the animal, especially if getting into the water. Only trained and well-equipped responders authorized under NOAA Fisheries are permitted to disentangle whales. Removing buoys from the animal will make it extremely difficult to relocate the whale for future rescue attempts.