A young humpback whale has successfully been freed of rope that was wrapped tightly around its tail off the Kona coast, according to wildlife officials.
On Tuesday, a trained team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was able to venture out and free the whale of the small-gauge rope tightly wrapped and embedded around its tailstock, along with a bundle of gear and two buoys trailing behind its fluke.
The entangled whale was first reported late Monday by Ocean Sports, a company offering whale watch and snorkel cruises.
The crew from Ocean Sports spotted the whale Monday off of the Mauna Lani hotel in North Kona, and again near Kona Airport on Tuesday. Ocean Sports watched the whale until responders could arrive via their Captain Zodiac.
After an assessment, the team used a hooked knife on the end of a 30-foot pole to make calculated cuts to the rope, eventually removing the two buoys and about 100 feet of heavy line and netting.
Officials believe the whale is now fully disentangled, although some of the rope remains embedded in its tailstock, which will possibly be shed over time.
Without intervention, they believe that the whale would not likely have been able to free itself, based on the location and type of entanglement it was dealing with. The whale was also emaciated and in poor condition, suffering from physical trauma.
The team can only hope it now has a better chance of survival.
Mariners who see an injured or entangled marine mammal are urged to keep a safe and legal distance and to call NOAA’s hotline at 888-256-9840, or contact the U.S. Coast Guard via VHF channel 16.
Additionally, mariners are urged to obey federal rules, slow down, and keep a vigilant eye out for an abundant number of mother whales and calves in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary during the peak of the season.
Revised recommendations for best boating practices around whales are available at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/boating-with-whales.
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