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Telemetry Buoy Tracks Entangled Whale


August 25, 2006

Members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network can claim partial success in their August 21 attempt to remove gillnet gear tangled around the tail of a humpback whale in Stephen's passage near Juneau. The team was able to remove much of the gear, but not all. With approaching darkness, they returned to port, planning to regroup later in the week and attempt to free the humpback whale completely.

jpg entangled whale locations

Example of locations from partially-entangled whale moving in Stephens Passage. The transmitter reported the whale's location at approximately one-hour intervals.
Image courtesy of Terrametrics, Inc. - NOAA

The whale is not in immediate danger from the lines which are still tangled around its tail. A telemetry buoy, which is beaming the whale's location over satellite, is attached to the remaining gear. The telemetry buoy will allow the team to travel straight to the whale when they are ready, avoiding a sometimes costly and frustrating search effort before further disentanglement efforts can take place.

The whale has been in the Hobart Bay and Five Finger Light area in the southern part of Stephen's Passage, not moving far from where it was first spotted.

People closely involved in the disentanglement effort included:

Ed Lyman, whale disentanglement expert with NOAA;
Fred Sharpe, Alaska Whale Foundation;
Jan Straley, University of Alaska Southeast;
Flip Nicklin, Whale Trust;
Barry Bracken, Petersburg Marine Mammal Center;
Sara Grae of the Alaska Whale Foundation;
Dennis Rogers of the Alaska Adventure; and
Dick Dunhaupt and Patty Hackney of the Oz.

The team reported that the support boats were crucial. Not only did they spot and report the entangled whale, they stood by until members of the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network could arrive. The Oz lent an inflatable raft to the effort. Team members also reported that the Alaska Adventure provided cookies, a fine treat on a rainy day.

Marine mammal entanglements or strandings should be reported to NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement at 800-853-1964


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Ketchikan, Alaska