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Crews work to free entangled humpback off Maui

A whale rescue team is in the process of attempting to disentangle a humpback whale in waters off south Maui.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Martin Tremblay said by phone from Maui the whale rescue team arrived at about 2 p.m. to relieve Coast Guard officials and attempt to tag the whale with a radio locator beacon.

The whale rescue team, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been trained to use special techniques and equipment to cut lines off an entangle whale.

NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo said the whale is not the same one that was seen by a couple of fishermen Wednesday off West Oahu.

Goo said the whale reportedly seen today was “a lot more serious” in its entanglement with fishing lines.

Tremblay said the crew of the dive boat Maui Diamond II reported seeing the entangled whale and followed it until the Coast Guard arrived on the scene.

Tremblay said the Coast Guard crew made attempts to tag the whale with a locator beacon but was unsuccessful.

He said the humpback whale has two buoys and netting on it and was dragging 20 feet of one-inch line.

“It look like it ran into a net,” Tremblay said.

Humpback whales are listed as endangered species under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Some waters in the main Hawaiian Islands, including waters between Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe, are a part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Federal law forbids people from approaching within 100 yards of an endangered humpback whale. 

Anyone who spots an entangled whale is asked to call 888-256-9840.

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