Humpback whale released from tangled rope near Lanai
KIHEI, Hawaii ” A humpback whale has been freed of several hundred feet of rope wrapped around its tail, which could have killed the young mammel, marine mammal rescue specialists said Saturday.
It was the sixth rescue so far during the humpback whale season in Hawaii.
The whale was sighted by a rafting tour vessel whose crew waited for about two hours before a research boat from the Dolphin Institute could take over on Friday off the east side of Lanai.
“From the images, it may not look bad, but from our experience, this rope was wrapped really tight around the whales peduncle and tail,” said David Mattila, rescue coordinator with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “It would have killed it if we had not gotten the rope off.”
Mattila said the section around the peduncle was so tightly wrapped that it cut into the whales flesh. The whale suffered cuts several inches deep where the line had been wrapped.
“My guess is it may not have been on for too long, although there was algae on the rope. It’s possible the debris got on its tail and maybe the whale snagged it on something else and pulled it tight,” he said.
The whale appeared to be a healthy sub-adult male, possibly just reaching sexual maturity, but still growing. Humpback whales will grow up to 45 feet long, and they weigh roughly a ton per foot.
Humpback whales regularly appear in Hawaii waters from December to May, where they are involved in breeding and calving before returning to feeding grounds off Alaska.
With other whales disentangled this season, Mattila said, most were thin and showing signs of distress from having been tangled for some time, causing concerns that they would be too weak for the 2,300-mile swim back to their Alaskan feeding grounds.
“Some lately have been in such bad shape, were not sure if they will survive,” he said. “This one was still healthy.”
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