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Rescue team on standby to free whale from polypropylene line

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 4:44 p.m. HST, Nov 12, 2013

The public is being asked to keep a lookout for a juvenile humpback whale off Maui that has large green polypropylene line wrapped around its tail flukes. A rescue team from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is on standby, hoping to disentangle the whale. 

The Pacific Whale Foundation's vessel, Ocean Discovery, glimpsed the entangled whale yesterday at about 4 p.m. about 1.5 miles outside of Lahaina Harbor.

"We spotted a blow ahead of us, on the way to the harbor," said foundation senior vessel staff person Sierra Frye-Keele in a statement issued by the nonprofit. "As we got closer, we noticed that the whale didn't seem to be lifting its fluke (tail) out of the water as it dove. We eventually realized that the tail area was entangled in a what appeared to be a large, green polypropylene line."

The captain and crew contacted the sanctuary and waited with the whale for as long as possible, but the animal continued north, started doing longer dives and began traveling faster, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation. By the time the sanctuary team arrived, it was out of sight in the diminishing light.

Since its inception in 2002, the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network has freed 17 entangled whales and removed over 7,000 feet of line.

If you see the entangled whale, call the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries hotline at (888) 256-9840.

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