Nearly 1,000 pounds of abandoned fishing net were pulled from waters off the coast of Maui this week, thanks to the quick thinking crew of a whale watching tour.
The Safari Explorer was 'cruising' in the Auau Channel off Lahaina on Tuesday, hoping to spot humpback whales, when they spotted the mass of debris. The boat's captain says they used hooks to scoop the nets out of the water, but they weren't prepared for how much they would end up removing from the sea.
"We do often find floating debris out in the water as we cruise through the channels," said Kent Redell, the expedition's leader. "But we've never really had an undertaking of this kind before, when it comes to retrieving debris in the water."
The group soon discovered it was a much larger mass than they usually remove -- between 700 and 1,000 pounds, according to a company spokesperson.
"The last thing we would want to come across is an entangled humpback whale," Redell said. "There's not much, if anything, we can do for that except report it, so it was encouraging that we didn't have to come across a sight like that, especially with guests on-board."
The mass of nets was pulled onto the deck of the boat using gear already aboard the vessell. While crews were preparing the net for disposal, a dead green sea turtle was discovered caught inside.
The ship, which runs week-long tour trips from the Big Island to Molokai, will carry the debris until arriving back at Kawaihae Harbor on Saturday. Crews will then offload the collected trash and bags of net for disposal.