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Humpback Whale Freed from Entangling Lines

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

National Park News

On June 6th, the operator of an NPS pilot boat reported seeing a humpback whale swimming on the surface near Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay. Entangled in its tail was a line with a buoy attached to a sport fishing crab pot. The whale was able to swim slowly and covered a distance of several miles despite the fact that the line was still dragging a crab pot weighing approximately 80 pounds. Attempts to free the entangled whale by a trained Park Service disentanglement team were unsuccessful. Special cutting tools and long-handled equipment were used by staff to attempt to cut the line off the whale, which continued to move through the water at approximately three knots. Darkness forced team members to end their efforts, but not before attaching two highly visible marker buoys to the lines trailing behind the whale. Air and sea searches for the animal turned up nothing on the following day. On Thursday, June 8th, observers on a passing vessel reported seeing buoys matching the description of the marker buoys near the entrance to Geikie Inlet on the west side of Glacier Bay. Responding park biologists positively identified the buoys as being those that had been attached to the whale. They were able to pull up all gear, including buoys, lines, and the crab pot (containing three crabs) intact. It’s believed that the whale was able to free itself from the gear. Biologists will continue to monitor whale populations in the bay and attempt to identify and observe the condition of this particular whale. The three crabs were released, having circumnavigated nearly half the waters of Glacier Bay on what must have been the wildest ride of their lives.


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