PHOTOS: Whale Successfully Disentangled from Fishing Line off of Maui

February 23, 2015, 10:19 PM HST · Updated February 24, 1:10 AM
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By Wendy Osher

An adult humpback whale entangled in 450 feet of fishing line was freed on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 in waters off of Māʻalaea on Maui, according to Ed Lyman, Resource Protection Manager and Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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    According to information released by NOAA, at least five wraps of heavy gauge line were observed around the animal’s tailstock.

    The 40-ton female humpback was first spotted with entangled line on Feb. 13, off the Hamakua coast of Hawaiʻi Island, but due to poor weather and a remote location, no immediate response was possible, agency officials said.

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    The whale was spotted again two days later along the leeward coast of the Big Island south of Kailua-Kona; but NOAA officials say a tagging and disentanglement effort was suspended when the animal rounded South Point.

    After the whale had crossed the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel to Maui’s south shore preparations were made for an authorized response off Maui.

    Crew from the Sanctuary worked with partners to cut several hundred feet of heavy line from the whale’s tail.

    Each year the agency responds to reports of whales in distress due to entanglement. The first large scale response effort of the season was reported in December off of Kīhei, Maui.

    To report an injured or entangled marine mammal, NOAA officials advise the public to maintain the required safety distance of 100 yards and call the agency’s Marine Mammal Hotline at (888) 256-9840, or the US Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

    The latest whale disentanglement effort was coordinated by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, under authority of NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Regional Office and Office of Protected Resource. Partners include: West Hawaiʻi Marine Mammal Response Network, NOAA Corps, Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, and the West Maui Rapid Response Team.

    Lee James reaching out with flying cutter. Ed Lyman (center) holding onto to control line behind whale and Grant Thompson is pictured on right. (Courtesy of L. Finfrock - NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Lee James reaching out with flying cutter. Ed Lyman (center) holding onto to control line behind whale and Grant Thompson is pictured on right. (Courtesy of L. Finfrock – NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)(Courtesy of L. Finfrock – NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Rachel Finn uses telemetry to attempt to locate the entangled whale that had a telemetry package attached to it on 2/15/15 off the Big Island. (Courtesy of G. Thompson)

    Rachel Finn uses telemetry to attempt to locate the entangled whale that had a telemetry package attached to it on 2/15/15 off the Big Island.
    (Courtesy of G. Thompson)

    Ed Lyman reaching out with flying cutter. (Courtesy of L. Finfrock - NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Ed Lyman reaching out with flying cutter.
    (Courtesy of L. Finfrock – NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Lee James reaching out with flying cutter. Ed Lyman (center) holding onto to control line behind whale and Grant Thompson is pictured on right. (Courtesy of L. Finfrock - NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Lee James reaching out with flying cutter. Ed Lyman (center) holding onto to control line behind whale and Grant Thompson is pictured on right.
    (Courtesy of L. Finfrock – NOAA Fisheries MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable with flying cutter. Pictured from left: Lee James, Ed Lyman and Grant Thompson. (Courtesy of R. Finn - NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable with flying cutter. Pictured from left: Lee James, Ed Lyman and Grant Thompson.
    (Courtesy of R. Finn – NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable with flying cutter. Pictured from left: Ed Lyman and Grant Thompson. (Courtesy of R. Finn - NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable with flying cutter. Pictured from left: Ed Lyman and Grant Thompson.
    (Courtesy of R. Finn – NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable holding on to line trailing behind entangled whale. Pictured in inflatable from left: Grant Thompson, Nicole Davis, and Ed Lyman. Flukes shown in image are of companion whale. (Courtesy of R. Finn - NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Response team in inflatable holding on to line trailing behind entangled whale. Pictured in inflatable from left: Grant Thompson, Nicole Davis, and Ed Lyman. Flukes shown in image are of companion whale.
    (Courtesy of R. Finn – NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Camera on pole with flying cutter knife shows last cut being made to free the whale. (Courtesy of E. Lyman - NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Camera on pole with flying cutter knife shows last cut being made to free the whale.
    (Courtesy of E. Lyman – NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Camera on pole with flying cutter knife shows gear being shed. (Courtesy of E. Lyman - NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Camera on pole with flying cutter knife shows gear being shed.
    (Courtesy of E. Lyman – NOAA HIHWNMS MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

    Humpback whale with entanglement. (Courtesy of D. Verbeck MMHSRP permit # 932-1905)

    Humpback whale with entanglement.
    (Courtesy of D. Verbeck MMHSRP
    permit # 932-1905)

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