MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An adult humpback whale is swimming free – and saying 'thanks' – after hard-working rescuers removed nearly 300 feet of rope from its mouth.
NOAA officials say they received the first report of a large whale that was entangled on Thursday, when the captain of a fishing vessel phoned in the incident.
A trained response team soon deployed and used a small inflatable craft to approach the animal. Officials said the whale became "very active" upon their initial approach, so they waited for it to calm down before attempting to remove the braided rope.
Removal operations continued into Friday, when crews were able to successfully remove all debris – 285 feet of 3/8 braided rope – from its mouth.
"On release, the animal immediately breached several times," NOAA said. "With the removal of gear, it is believed that the animal has an excellent chance of surviving."
Video posted by NOAA authorities on Wednesday, taken just minutes after the whale was freed, shows the animal breaching twice – right in front of the rescue crew.
If you see an entangled marine animal, keep at least 100 yards distance and call the NOAA 24-hour Hotline at 1-888 256-9840. If cell service is not available, boaters can radio the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF CH. 16, and they will handle the report.
NOAA wants to remind everyone that it is illegal to approach a humpback whale within 100 yards under any means by sea, and 1,000 feet by aircraft.