Rescuers Help Humpback Whales from Entanglement

Ed Lyman
Ed Lyman

MAUI (KHNL) -- Rescuing entagled humpback whales.

It's a dangerous job. But somebody's got to do it.

Some of the best rescuers on the planet, work out of the island off Maui.

This video, provided by the rescuers themselves, shows thick ropes wrapped around an adult humpback whale.

No one knows for sure how long it's been dragging that surface buoy.

But, the gear appears to be from Alaska.

''We get some of these large humpback whales, 40-feet long, 35-40 tons of weight in gear and we try to get them out of that gear," said Ed Lyman.

Ed Lyman, leads the charge in rescuing humpbacks from entanglement.

Thanks to a three-decade long ban on whaling, the number of humpbacks steadily increased.

As a result, so has the number of whale entanglements.

''There's high densities of whales, right here. We may have as many as 10,000 humpback whales visit Hawaiian waters this year. As that population increases, a lot of them are getting entangled or have other threats upon, some of them from us. We'd like to help them out, at least as many as we can," said Lyman.   ''Some of these entanglements can be gruesome. Tight wraps around the tail or the flippers, especially young animals. We're very concerned for the young animals because they can grow into the gear."

Lyman, and fellow scientist, David Mattila, used specialized cutters and tools, they've developed, to free the mammals.

But Mattila says he'd rather not even do this.

Instead, there should be more of an effort to ensure this doesn't happen in the first place.

''Fishermen don't want to catch whales. That's the last thing they want. It's loss of gear, it's perhaps more regulations coming down the road. They can help by changing gear, modifications, changing fishing practices," said Mattila.  "This boating community can help us out by reporting events. In fact, they help us out a great deal because these engagements are increasing in number, we believe, but they're a still big needle in a haystack out there. In order to help them, we have got the report."

Lyman and Mattila are two of just eight people in America authorized to disentangle whales from fishing lines and other debris.