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Entangled humpback whale off Maui finally freed

December 8, 2009 | 11:46 am

Officials disentangle a juvenile humpback whale from yellow plastic rope caught in its mouth. The 35-foot-long yearling was freed from the life-threatening rope Sunday.

A juvenile humpback whale entangled in hundreds of feet of heavy-duty polypropylene rope was finally freed on Sunday.

As reported last week in Outposts, the mammal was first spotted off Maui by the crew of a whale-watching vessel, Ocean Explorer of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

A team with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary had been trying to free the animal since last Tuesday, when team members fixed a transmitter to the rope for tracking purposes.

Assisted by members from the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the team was able to attach a sea anchor to the mammal, slowing it and keeping it near the surface. They were then able to approach close enough to cut the entangling lines using specialized equipment.

After all the gear was removed, the whale appeared to be in good shape, and swam away with its mother and another whale.

Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the sanctuary, said that the rope could have killed the whale because it could interfere with its ability to feed, as it was wrapped around the whale's mouth.

I'm glad this whale tale ended on a positive note, and hopefully the young leviathan did not sustain any life-threatening injuries from its ordeal.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Officials disentangle a juvenile humpback whale from yellow plastic rope caught in its mouth. The 35-foot-long yearling was freed from the life-threatening rope Sunday. Credit: NOAA

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