Environmental Stewardship - Expanding the Alaska Response Role

1-Call Alaska Expanding the Response Scope – Environmental Stewardship

Many members of the 1-Call Alaska team are stationed in Dutch Harbor, Alaska which is 1300 km from Anchorage, the most populous region in the state. The area is teeming with marine wildlife, industry and fisherman, which can unfortunately at times overlap. Pictured is a young humpback whale that became ensnared in crabbing gear just outside of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. 

To free the distressed whale; A team of local port officials, NOAA officers and a 1-Call Alaska/Resolve employee, Dan Magone sprang into action. 

Dan is a long-time resident of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. He is well known and respected within the local Alaska community and maritime industry at large for his original thinking, and quick reaction time. Dan has participated in a whale entanglement class which consisted of classroom work and on-water training, where the team untangled a harbor skiff acting as a whale. In October Dan put his training to the test. Below is a recap of his experience.

“Responding to this incident we had the harbor departments high speed support boat and smaller inflatable boat. My job was to operate the inflatable in such a way as to get the NOAA guy in position to cut the gear which consisted of ¾” hard lay poly crab line. The whale had one turn of line around its body at the aft end of the blow hole that appeared to restrict its breathing. This line was so tight it was imbedded into the skin so there was no way to get a hook or knife under it. The whale could not swim because one line passed through its jaw and back to the tail where there was a dozen turns just ahead of the fluke and a seven-foot square crab pot that hung down from the tail. The whale could only move up and down in the water column but would only stay on the surface long enough for two breaths before sinking out of sight. Just before we left the first night a shark was spotted on the surface circling the whale, a rare sight around here.

There were many frustrating hours spent before I noticed that when the whale was inhaling there was a pucker behind the blow hole that created a small space to get a knife hook into. After 3 or 4 attempts we managed to cut the line at that point and we could immediately sense the whale’s relief. After that progress was better. Three big inflatable buoys were added to the small marker buoy we had secured to the tail and then the crab pot was cut loose. Now the whale was free to swim so the crew had to chase it all over Unalaska Bay to finish the job.”

Going the extra mile to protect the environment is a key value of the 1-Call Alaska culture, as we realize the ocean and its ecosystem contain value beyond measure. Creating employment opportunities and having mariners on standby in remote locations such as Dutch Harbor allows us to support other aspects of marine conservation. To access the original article please go to the KUCB Channel 8 TV site at: