A juvenile whale shark is now free from a “life-threatening” entanglement thanks to a pair of free divers off Lanai on Sunday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said.
The divers, Joby Rohrer, an Army biologist, and Jon Sprague, wildlife control manager for Pulama Lanai, spotted the large fish Sunday as it swam back and forth off Kaunolu.
The divers cut away the 150 to 200 pound rope with a knife in a process that took more than an hour and five dives.
The shark, which had been entangled since at least July 8, remained calm while the rope was cut away in 30 to 40 feet of water.
After the animal was freed, it swam away into deeper water.
The whale shark population has declined by more than 50 percent since 1975, and the endangered species continue to face threats such as entanglement, DLNR said.
On July 14, DLNR asked for the public’s help in locating the entangled animal after it was seen with heavy gauge line wrapped around its mid-section near Maui.
DLNR said the entanglement was cutting into the emaciated animal’s flesh and experts believed it to be life-threatening.
DLNR urged the public to avoid trying to disentangle whales or other marine mammals on their own and instead call trained responders with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.