Search for humpback whale entangled in debris off Hawaii

A marine mammal rescue team searches for an adult humpback whale caught in debris off Hawaii.

First responders removed about 2,000 feet of heavy-gauge line from the animal over the weekend while it was off the island of Kauai, The Garden Island newspaper reported.

Authorities untied most of the gear but were unable to remove it all before the whale moved on.

Officials plan to try to find the whale and free more line from it if conditions allow. They will study the removed device to try to determine what it is and where it came from.

Large whales can become entangled in active or abandoned fishing gear or other ropes and lines in the ocean.

The trail of debris can cause whales to use more energy to swim. It can also make it harder for them to feed, which can lead to starvation. Debris can also injure animals and trigger infections.

The entangled whale was emaciated, light-colored and rough-skinned, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. It had spots of rust-colored whale lice, indicating that it was in distress.

Graham Talaber, who lives in the Koloa community of Kauai, noticed a rope and a dark speck in the water while filming green sea turtles with a drone-mounted camera on Sunday.

After 10 to 15 minutes of hovering above the area, his concerns are confirmed when he sees a bump at the end of a large net.

“It’s right there, right in front of you, this huge bus-sized animal fighting for its life,” Mr Talaber said. He asked his father to alert NOAA.

The response team attached a satellite telemetry buoy to the whale, which will free itself in about a week.

The buoy reported the whale’s return to Kauai waters on Wednesday, but the team was unable to spot the animal.

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