Watchers look for entangled humpback

Posted: Monday, July 07, 2008

SEKIU, Wash. - Whale-watchers are keeping a vigil over the Strait of Juan de Fuca in northwest Washington state for a young humpback whale entangled in crab lines.

John Calambokidis, director of Cascadia Research, a marine mammal research group, said searchers last saw the whale early Sunday off Slip Point east of Clallam Bay before it disappeared.

Calambokidis said the whale, apparently a calf, was tangled in lines through its mouth and around its left pectoral fin.

He said the situation is life-threatening, because the whale will continue to grow, but the lines will not stretch.

On Saturday, the young humpback was sighted off Sekiu at the north end of Washington;s Olympic Peninsula, and observers were able to attach marker buoys and a radio transmitter.

Left in place, special hooks on the buoys eventually would have cut the crab lines and pulled them off. But overnight, some fishermen observed the whale and, according to Calambokidis, thought the buoys were impeding it. They cut the lines, eliminating the ability to maintain visual or radio contact.

Humpback whales range along the Pacific coast from Central America to southern Alaska, and to Hawaii.

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