Crew frees whale from hundreds of feet of fishing line

An entangled humpback whale was successfully disentangled off Lahaina on Wednesday morning, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The whale had been first seen several times off the Big Island over the past week. On Sunday, a response team assessed the entanglement and attached a transmitter package to the gear entangling the whale.

The whale was spotted Wednesday morning off Lahaina by an Ultimate Whale Watch tour vessel, which stood by along with the West Maui response vessel Aloha Kai until the response team arrived at 9:20 a.m.

The entanglement was wrapped around the whale’s mouth and head, and along its right pectoral fin. A long pole with a specially designed hook knife was used by trained personnel to cut through the entanglement. Hundreds of feet of small gauge line were collected after the successful disentanglement.

According to a sanctuary news release, the entanglement was considered life threatening. Even though the animal is in poor condition, being emaciated and light in color, it has a much better chance of survival, the news release said.

The whale may be the same one reported by a commercial fisherman off the windward side of the Big Island more than a week ago.

The efforts to disentangle the whale were led by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working with trained personnel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, state Division of Aquatic Resources, NOAA Corps and the West Maui Response Team.

People who encounter an injured or entangled marine mammal are asked to maintain the required safety distance of 100 yards and call the NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16.