If you were in the area of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii last week and thought that you were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of humpback whale, you were probably right. But the sighting wasn't such as a rare sight, with the more than 25 ton mammal acting as a sitting duck along the Big Island's Kona Coast.
Originally spotted on Friday, Feb. 13, the 45-foot-long whale was entangled with fishing line in Hawaiian waters for more than a week. And as these types of entanglements can lead to the large mammal drowning, starving, or even being struck by a ship, local response teams were hopeful to cut the humpback whale free as soon as possible.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, a crew with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary confirmed that they were able to get a boating vessel within 10 feet of the entangled mammal, and planned to use a saw to cut away the fishing lines. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program documented the mission, as sanctuary workers equipped a long pole with a flying line cutter knife to saw the line free.
Spokesperson for the sanctuary, Ed Lyman says that the crew was successful in setting the humpback whale free and was able to cut away several hundred feet of line.
While the ordeal is over for the whale and for the rescue crew, marine biologists say that it wasn't a harmless occurrence. Though the team was able to remove hundreds of feet of line, a small piece remained lodged in a fresh wound on the tail, showing efforts that the whale made in trying to escape. Infections are of great concern to researchers who say that the whale may be in trouble, should it be trapped again, however, Lyman says that the fragment will likely fall away as the wound heals.