The entangled humpback whale spotted off Otago coast
Image: Will Rayment | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is asking people to keep a lookout for a humpback whale entangled in fishing gear seen off the Otago coast yesterday afternoon.

Date:  29 March 2019

An entangled whale was seen by a University of Otago lecturer and students about 10 km off Karitane north of Dunedin. It was seen moving slowly north with line entangled around its body and tail and trailing a buoy.

Anyone who sees the entangled whale should call DOC’s 24-hour hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). No one should attempt to cut the whale free themselves as this is very dangerous.

DOC leads teams trained in disentangling whales using specialised equipment and these trained personnel would attempt to disentangle the whale.

The entangled humpback could be seen off the South Island’s east coast in the coming days as it makes the annual humpback whale migration north to tropical waters at this time of year.

DOC ranger Mike Morrissey, who leads the South Island large whale disentanglement team, asks any boaties spotting the whale to not get close to it or do anything that would disturb or harass the whale.

“We ask that no one attempts to cut away the buoy being trailed by the whale. It can be dangerous and removing the buoy makes it more difficult for our trained team to carry out the whale disentanglement procedure.

“People who see the whale can assist our rescue response by staying with the whale, monitoring it and advising of its exact location for our disentanglement team to get to it.

“The whale will likely be in some distress but it is moving and is not any immediate danger so urgent action isn’t required. The priority is people’s safety and ensuring disentanglement is carried out safely by our trained team.”

Attempts to cut free entangled whales are only carried out when it is safe to do so. For safety, it requires sea conditions not being too rough and sufficient daylight hours as the procedures can take several hours and it’s not safe to disentangle whales in darkness.

The whale disentanglement team initially fully assesses the situation to determine the safest and most appropriate course of action for attempting to cut free entangled whales. Having an exact location for an entangled whale assists the whale disentanglement team in getting to the whale as soon as it is possible to do so.

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