Rescuers hoping for a chance to free entangled whale shark of Maui

Rescuers hoping for a chance to free entangled whale shark of Maui

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Rescuers hoping for a chance to free entangled whale shark of Maui

Dive-boat crews in Maui are keeping their eyes out for an entangled whale shark in the hope that a disentanglement team can be dispatched to help the gentle giant.

The juvenile whale shark, measuring 15 to 18 feet, was first spotted Sunday off Olowalu, about 4 miles south of Lahaina.

Entangled whale shark off Maui. Photo: Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective

NOAA Fisheries stated in a news release that the whale shark’s body was wrapped with “heavy-gauge” fishing line in front of its dorsal fin and around both pectoral fins (see top photo).

The whale shark also was burdened by a large bundle of gear attached to its underside.

The docile creature disappeared before help could arrive, but was spotted again Friday off Molokini, a partially submerged crater that is popular among divers.

Generic whale shark image via Wikipedia

The Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective reported the sighting on Facebook:

“Multiple boats and divers reported seeing the animal on the backside of Molokini around 8:30 a.m. We want to thank everyone who reported this animal and we encourage you to continue to do so.

“We are in communication with NOAA and the entanglement network here in the islands. By assessing videos from the two sightings, the animal seems to be easily spooked. Please be mindful of this. Report any future sightings to the NOAA hotline at 888-256-9840 and our hotline at 808-465-4872.”

As of the time of this post, a disentanglement effort had not been launched. As is the case with larger whales that become entangled, rescue efforts are difficult because the animals are elusive and easily spooked.

Whale sharks, which are found in tropical and subtropical waters, are the planet’s largest fish, measuring to about 40 feet. They feed mostly on plankton, and because of their size and docile nature they’re an incredibly popular attraction for divers.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists whale sharks as endangered.

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