Search on for entangled humpback whale
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionDepartment of Conservation staff are using a boat and a plane to try and locate a humpback whale apparently entangled in rope, spotted by a boatie off the coast of Doubtless Bay this morning.
Date: 28 September 2010
Update: 28 September 2010, 5.30pm
DOC staff trying to free an entangled humpback whale in Doubtless Bay managed to hook a grapnel hook onto rope tangled around the whale’s tail just after 5.30pm this evening. Unfortunately, minutes later, the grapnel hook broke. The operation has now been called off due to approaching nightfall. At least 2 hours of daylight is required to carry out the operation safely.
As the equipment and trained personnel are currently on site, DOC has decided to make another attempt tomorrow. A plane and 2 boats will go out tomorrow morning at 7.30am.
Humpback whales can grow up to 16 metres in length and weigh up to 40 tonnes, so great care is required in carrying out an operation of this nature to ensure the safety of all personnel involved.
27 September 2010, 5.20pm
Department of Conservation staff are using a boat and a plane to try and locate a humpback whale apparently entangled in rope, spotted by a boatie off the coast of Doubtless Bay this morning.
A member of the public telephoned the Kaitaia Area Office at 11.30am to report a 7 metre long humpback, with rope wrapped around its head and tail, trying to swim into the Mangonui harbour before heading north into Doubtless Bay.
According to Kaitaia Area Manager, Jonathan Maxwell, attempting to free an entangled whale is a risky and dangerous task. So Kaitaia staff are enlisting the help of colleagues in Kaikoura. A staff member is flying up this evening to assist in the operation.
Mr Maxwell said Kaikoura staff use a procedure DOC developed for freeing entangled whales based on techniques used by similar agencies in Australia and the United States.
“Kaikoura staff have trained in Australia on use of the technique and have specialised equipment for it”, he added.
Well-known orca researcher Ingrid Visser is also assisting DOC with the use of her boat. Ms Visser is in the Far North following her involvement in a 3 day whale rescue operation to assist in re-floating 24 pilot whales stranded at Spirits Bay last week. 14 were eventually saved.
A boat will go out first thing tomorrow morning to try and locate the whale, and then a second boat with DOC personnel and equipment will follow to try and release the entrapped mammal.
Mr Maxwell said the whale is unlikely to be in any immediate risk of drowning but the rope would likely be causing the whale distress and could cause injuries. It is also likely to impede the whale’s movement and ability to feed.
“We would like to try and locate the whale and free it as soon as possible to avoid further harm to it,” he said.
Mr Maxwell said the procedure for cutting whales free can be slow and take several hours and for safety reasons it requires suitable sea conditions and is only carried out in daylight.
It is not uncommon for humpback whales to entangle themselves in ropes, especially in the vicinity of crayfish pots and buoys.