A humpback whale was successfully disentangled from hundreds of feet of small gauge line in waters off Lahaina on Wednesday, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The whale was seen several times off the Big Island over the past week. On Sunday, an authorized response team was able to assess the entanglement and attach a transmitter package.
On Wednesday, the whale was seen again off Lahaina by the Ultimate Whale Watch tour vessel who stood by along the West Maui response vessel Aloha Kai until the authorized response team arrived at 9:20 a.m.
The entanglement was wrapped around the whale's mouth and head, and along the right pectoral fin. A long pole with a specially designed hook knife was used by trained and permitted personnel to cut through the entanglement.
The entanglement was considered life threatening and the whale is confirmed to be totally free of gear, according to the sanctuary. Even though the animal is in poor condition, being emaciated and light in color, it has a much better chance of survival.
There is the possibility that this is the same humpback whale reported by a commercial fisherman off the windward side of the Big Island over a week ago.
The efforts were lead by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working closely with trained personnel from NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, NOAA Corps and the West Maui Response Team. Special thanks to the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium, Jupiter Foundation, Ocean Sports, The Nature Conservancy and the tour vessels Ultimate Whale Watch and Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventure.
If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, please 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.