An entangled sub-adult humpback whale can be seen off the Hawaiian island of Maui in this photo, released by the NOAA Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, on Tuesday. A young humpback whale has been stripped of about 100 feet of line that has caught in its mouth and fin. AP hide caption
A sick young whale trapped more than 30 meters in length off the coast of Maui was released Wednesday after a harrowing rescue operation.
Trained responders from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s humpback whale sanctuary in the Hawaiian Islands led the mission on Tuesday to untangle the small gauge from the whale’s mouth and pectoral fin, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.
The team got off to a promising start. They successfully removed the dangerous line from around the fin, but some of the equipment wrapped around the sea creature’s mouth was too difficult to pull out.
“As the fin became free, the whale accelerated, its tail got higher, and it moved better,” Ed Lyman, the sanctuary’s natural resource management specialist, told the Associated Press.
Despite her expert work, Lyman said, “We were defeated by the mouth again. We pulled, but you can’t pull too hard.”
Humpback whales, which were once critically endangered but are now recovering, live in oceans around the world. They migrate between feeding grounds each year, and some swim up to 5,000 miles.
On Tuesday, Lyman said the young whale fighting looked familiar to me. He suspects it is the same thing that the AP reported was “implicated in the same area about a month ago.”
And although the animal appeared to be much better after it was freed, Lyman said it might not be clear. The whale is emaciated and has spots of wallau.
“We definitely helped and increased the chances of survival,” he said. “But it’s worse than we thought,” said Lyman.