National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration biologists are asking people to watch for two humpback whales that were seen entangled in fishing gear in the Juneau area on Monday.
One of the whales, named Manunauna or Manu for short, was reported tangled in a crab pot line in Fritz Cove on Monday morning. NOAA biologist Sadie Wright said the agency is tracking that whale.
“From the Coast Guard vessel, we were able to attach a satellite tag buoy,” she said. “If he slows down or appears to be showing any signs of distress, we can launch another response.”
Wright said the entanglement is life-threatening.
“It passes through the mouth and inhibits its ability to forage,” she said.
Manu the whale was trailing two yellow buoys with a green buoy behind him. He was last tracked near Warm Springs Bay on Baranof Island, but Wright expects he will come back to the Juneau area. She said NOAA would like any photos or information people may have on Manu.
The second unidentified whale was reported entangled in gillnet gear in Taku Inlet just before noon on Monday. Wright said NOAA is seeking any information on this whale if people see it.
“Stay at least 100 yards away from the whale for the whale’s safety and for their own,” she said. “Boat propellers can get snagged up in the entangling materials that whales are dragging behind them. And that just makes a bad situation worse.”
To reduce the chance of entanglements, Wright recommends that people avoid using floating line.
NOAA Fisheries asks that people report sightings to the marine mammal hotline at (877) 925-7773, or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. NOAA asks that anyone who spots one of the whales not take any hands-on response actions.