Efforts to free entangled whale halted

The final push to free a humpback whale entangled in fishing gear near Juneau failed to remove everything, but now the tail and pectoral fins are clear of gear.

National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration teams called off the effort late Thursday afternoon. It is unclear how much gear remains because the whale’s evasive behavior, coupled with murky waters, made efforts to capture video underneath the whale futile, said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the NOAA Alaska region.

The last mission succeeded in removing some gear, but a necklace is still wrapped around the whale near the blowhole and an unknown amount of gear is still trapped beneath the mammal, Speegle added.

The whale was last seen travelling south in Chatham Strait, but the satellite tracking device was removed. Officials are unsure if the tangled gear will affect the whale long term, Speegle said.

“It’s not too long before the whales will begin migrating toward Hawaii, so we just hope this whale will be able to make it on its own,” Speegle said. “We exhausted all the known techniques trying to free this whale.”

Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.


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