Team frees humpback whale tangled in line off Hawaii

In this photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration an authorized team uses a hooked knife on the end of a long pole to free an entangled humpback whale off Hawaii, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (NOAA via AP) (MMHSRP Permit # 18786-06)

HONOLULU — A male humpback whale that was tangled so tightly in heavy line off Hawaii that his life was in danger has been freed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday.

A tour boat first reported the entangled whale outside Maalea, off the island of Maui, on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, the animal was lost among the many whales in the area before a disentanglement could be launched,” NOAA said in a news release.

On Tuesday, another tour vessel spotted the whale and hailed a research vessel with NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, which was already on the water collecting whale population data.

A NOAA team freed the whale from the heavy gauge line that was wrapped tightly around the whale’s head, preventing feeding.

Responders on the research vessel used a hooked knife on the end of a 30-foot pole to cut the whale from the 21-foot (6.4-meter), 7/8-inch (22-milimeter) diameter, three-strand, poly-blend line.

“The recovered gear will be investigated to determine its origin and use to better understand the entanglement risk and its impacts in order to reduce the threat,” the NOAA release said.


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