Rescuers disentangle humpback whale - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rescuers disentangle humpback whale

Ed Lyman Ed Lyman
David Schofield David Schofield

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The dramatic video and photographs show rescuers riding in the wake of a two-year-old humpback whale entangled in plastic rope.

The mammal was first spotted last Tuesday, dragging 350 feet of polypropylene line that wrapped around its head and body.

"A tight enough wrap like that, literally the animal would grow into it so the wounds would be more severe," said Ed Lyman, response coordinator with NOAA's Humpback Whale Sanctuary.

A joint force from NOAA, DLNR and the U.S. Coast Guard went after the whale Sunday.

They attached large floaters to the line to slow it down and keep the whale at the surface.

They used a long carbon fiber pole with a blade to make the cut.

"It's got a line attached to it, " Lyman said. "We fall back. We get away from the whale and bide our time, letting the knife do our work for us. I believe it took about ten minutes for the knife to cut through."

Since last week NOAA tracked the whale using GPS. Sunday the Coast Guard spotted the whale in the Kaiwi channel with its mother and a male escort.

Four hours after the sighting the whale was set free.

"The buoys fell still and the lines kind of spread apart and started to sink and there was jubilation. It was a really good feeling," said David Schofield of NOAA Fisheries.

Lyman said it's unlikely the line can be traced to its owner. He said some entangled humpbacks carry line all the way from Alaska.

But the effort gave rescuers practice for the next time.

"Everyone wants to reduce the rate of entanglements," Lyman said. "That information is going to at least get us down that road."

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