The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has presented Gov. Neil Abercrombie with a painting depicting an entangled humpback whale, bringing attention to the dangers that marine debris poses to this endangered species.
Daniel J. Basta, director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, gave the painting, “Seeking Sanctuary,” to the governor on behalf of the foundation. The painting was created by Tom Freeman, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s artist-in-residence for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System.
Marine mammal entanglement is a global problem and is the primary threat to humpback whales. It has been estimated that over 300,000 whales and other marine animals die each year worldwide as a result of entanglements. Since 2002 more than 68 humpbacks have been confirmed as entangled in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. When a humpback is entangled it is at high risk for starvation, drowning, and infection.
“It’s sad to think of any creature suffering injury or worse from marine debris,” said Freeman, whose work has been exhibited at many galleries across the U.S. and at the White House. “My hope is that this painting will shed light on a serious problem and inspire people to become better stewards of humpbacks and their habitats.”
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1992 to protect humpbacks and their habitat in Hawaii. An estimated 10,000 humpbacks visit the sanctuary each year to mate, calve, and nurse their young.
“The sanctuary is one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats,” said Malia Chow, sanctuary superintendent. “The humpback population is on the rise, but marine debris continues to pose a serious threat. We’re working with the state and our local partners to better protect this endangered species.”
In 2002, the sanctuary launched the community-based Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network, which now comprises more than 250 trained responders. Network responders have successfully freed 17 humpbacks from entanglement in the sanctuary.
“As the non-profit charitable partner to our national marine sanctuaries, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has been raising funds and bringing attention to the plight of the endangered whales that seek a safe haven in the sanctuary,” said NMSF president Jason Patlis. “And thanks to the Entanglement Response Network, the sanctuary is living up to its name. Tom’s painting, and his work as our artist-in-residence, will help raise awareness on this critical, inspirational program, as well as the importance of our national marine sanctuaries.” About NMSF: The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation connects people to the underwater places that define the American ocean. National marine sanctuaries – areas in our ocean and Great Lakes designated for their significance to the nation – comprise 14 sites over 170,000 square miles. NMSF works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support and strengthen these underwater national treasures.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1992 and protects the winter breeding grounds of the largest Pacific population of endangered humpback whales. The sanctuary is managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii through the Department of Land and Natural Resources.