A juvenile whale shark entangled in heavy line, was spotted for a second time this week, just off the coast of Maui.
The endangered species is known as the biggest fish in the sea, and can reach up to 40 feet in length. Once a rare sight in Hawaii, now seemingly a trend.
“Everyone wants to see a whale shark, and it’s considered a once in a lifetime special event,” says Stacia Goecke, Chief Scientist for Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective out of Kona.
But on Sunday, July 8, DLNR said an entangled juvenile whale shark was spotted near Olowalu with a heavy line wrapped around its mid-section. Four days later, the shark was spotted again near Molokini crater.
Hollis Romanchik of Pro Divers Maui, tried to free the entangled shark.
“We were in the water for about five minutes before we saw it kind of emerge out of the deep,” she said.
She says the shark was about 20-feet in length.
“It looked like (the line) got on it when it was a lot younger because you can see the scarring and indentation on its body from it growing around it, but it looks like it got caught in it when it was much smaller,” she said.
“It’s a really long part of the line down below the animal and it’s covered in barnacles and just all kinds of marine life so it’s definitely been on it for a significant amount of time,” she continued.
Romanchik tried to free the shark with a knife.
“I tried to make a cut on the line but it was a really thick line probably an inch thick but as soon as i put my hand on the animal it jerked away.”
Officials say the heavy line is weighing the shark down, making it hard to rescue and the tight wrap is life-threatening.
“I wanted to free it, I felt so terrible that I wasn’t able to and that I hesitated I wish i tried harder,” Romanchik added.
NOAA also reported a hooked monk seal off the Windward side of Oahu this week, another potentially life-threatening situation to an endangered species.
Officials are urging beach-goers and boaters to take their trash with them when they leave and they can also help by picking up any trash they might find floating in the water or on the beach, and to call the proper officials if they see a marine animal in trouble.
“We’re encouraging folks that if you do see the entangled whale shark or any other fish species in trouble to call the DLNR hotline,” says David Schofield, NOAA fisheries marine mammal response coordinator:
The number is 1-888-256-9840.