National Park staff rescue a humpback whale in Alaska

By Jurassic JennJun 2, 2024 16:00 PMCuriosity
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National Park staff rescue a humpback whale in Alaska
National Park staff rescue a humpback whale in Alaska. Source: www.yahoo.com

An alarming call about a whale tangled in buoys came from Alaskans who alerted Glacier Bay National Park officials last October. A team of scouts immediately traveled to the Icy Strait in southeast Alaska, where the whale was spotted off the coast of Gustavus.

Biologists from the National Park Service (NPS) and staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked together on the rescue. Experts discovered that the young humpback whale had become entangled in a 204-kilogram net and two buoys connected to a 150-kilogram crab trap that had anchored it to the seabed. The rescue was reported on the website SSPDaily.

The NPA Capelin research vessel crossed to the Icy Strait. The team arrived and found the whale near the shore near Pleasant Island. There, a licensed drone operator targeted the animal from the air to help identify a specific problem. This visual information was crucial in the strategy to free the humpback whale.

The drone footage showed that the whale had a noose in its mouth that connected to a piece of tangled fishing line around its tail stem, effectively tying the animal down. Its body was tightly bent, so it could only swim clockwise. With limited mobility, the whale would dive for seven to nine minutes with only 30 seconds between surfacing periods.

Using a special pole equipped with a knife and a hook with blades, the team successfully removed the gear by making several cuts.

The day after the rescue, NPS biologist Janet Neilson was able to identify the juvenile as SEAK-5490 based on photographs of its tail fin profile. It was seen in Southeast Alaska in 2021 and 2022 and was first documented in . Its length was measured at 12.5 meters, suggesting that SEAK-5490 is now between 3 and 4 years old. The animal weighs up to 35 tons.

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