Pacific Whale Foundation Researchers Participate in
Whale Disentanglement Training
On January 8 and 11, 2016, Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) senior researchers, Jens Currie and Stephanie Stack, participated in whale disentanglement training with the Hawaiian Islands Large Whale Disentanglement Network, an initiative coordinated by Ed Lyman of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary). The Sanctuary coordinates large whale entanglement responses, working with the Department of Land & Natural Resources and NOAA Fisheries' Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP).
The PWF research team was joined by members of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources, Ultimate Whale Watch and Sanctuary personnel during the training. The training activities included on-water practice sessions utilizing two vessels that assumed the roles of entangled whale and approach vessel. Trainees focused on best practices for approaching and responding to endangered humpback whales in life-threatening entanglements.
The researchers note that it is important if you see an entangled whale, to please call the NOAA Hotline at (888) 256-9840 with the location, age of the animal (calf, subadult, or adult), condition of the animal (and if it is mobile or not), and description of the entanglement and/or gear involved. Response Coordinator Ed Lyman adds, “Please do not attempt to assist or free the animal on your own, as it is unsafe and illegal unless properly authorized. Because of the dangers involved to whales and humans, large whale response under NOAA's MMHSRP and the state of Hawaii is a permit-required activity. Training is highly specialized and requires proper equipment and personnel.”
Pacific Whale Foundation researchers have scheduled additional training to provide them with sufficient experience to act as first responders. PWF’s research vessel, Ocean Protector, will act as a dedicated response platform to provide an initial assessment of an entangled whale, document behaviors and nature of entanglement, and if deemed life-threatening, tag the animal to aid a response by NOAA’s authorized disentanglement team.
The Disentanglement Network will utilize Ocean Protector as well as USCG small boats to mount responses from Ma’alaea Harbor when needed. PWF's Ocean Protector may also be called to assist if engaged in research in an area near an entanglement report. Currently, PWF Eco-Adventures vessel staff undergo annual training on how to identify entangled whales and provide initial reports to assist in whale disentanglements.
Pacific Whale Foundation's Research Department undertakes a variety of scientific research and training activities for the protection of marine animals and ocean conservation. Research is supported by proceeds from PWF Eco-Adventures, as well as from Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Stores and donations from Pacific Whale Foundation members and supporters worldwide. To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, please visit www.pacificwhale.org.
Pacific Whale Foundation