Introduction

The Department of Conservation is asking the public to look out for a humpback whale with its tail fluke entangled in a craypot line and buoy, possibly heading north from Banks Peninsula.

The Department of Conservation is asking the public to look out for a humpback whale with its tail fluke entangled in a craypot line and buoy, possibly heading north from Banks Peninsula.

Anyone seeing an entangled humpback whale is asked to ring the department’s emergency number, 0800 DOCHOTline – 0800 36 24 68.

Humpback whale with line around fluke, M Morrissey.
Spotted from the air, a humpback whale is hampered by a craypot line and buoy

DOC’s biodiversity programme manager Robin Smith said the Department was informed yesterday by locals at Birdlings Flat of a humpback seen off Kaitorete Spit, caught in craypot line.

“DOC staff were able to keep an eye on the entangled whale from the shore, while DOC Kaikoura ranger Mike Morrissey and others trained in whale disentangling techniques flew down to get the big picture from the air. They then returned to Kaikoura to pack up their specialist equipment and drove down early this morning,” said Mr Smith. 

“When we went back to check on it this morning, the whale was no longer there. We searched the coastline from a fixed wing plane south as far as Taumutu, around Banks Peninsula and in transect lines out from the coast for 3 km.  Its possible the whale is now travelling north up the east coast and may be seen offshore from Motanau or Kaikoura.”

“We’re asking the public to keep an eye out for an entangled humpback whale and to let us know as soon as they can if they see it,” said Mr Smith.

Mike Morrissey and the team of three are now returning to Kaikoura but will be keeping an eye out from their patch. “We urge people not to make any attempt to disentangle the whale themselves as it is dangerous to do so,” said Mr Morrissey.

“The best way for the public to help in these situations is to contact us at DOC if you spot the whale. I would like to say thank you to Black Cat, who offered their crew and boat free of charge today to assist with the potential rescue.”

  Mr Morrissey said that the whale is unlikely to drown, but the line could cause injuries, or impede the whale’s movement and its ability to feed. 

The procedure for cutting whales free can be slow and take several hours. For safety reasons it requires suitable sea conditions and is only carried out in daylight. 

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