Emaciated and entangled humpback whale gets help off Maui

  • Entangled humpback whale in waters off of Lahaina, Maui. (Courtesy NOAA/MMHSRP permit 18786-05)

HONOLULU — A young humpback whale swimming off Maui has been freed of about 100 feet of line entangled in its mouth and flipper.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary coordinated the effort in partnership with local businesses and organizations, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.


On Tuesday, the team cut off line that was wrapped around the whale’s flipper and trailing about 50 feet behind it.

Some of the line entangled in the whale’s mouth was unable to be removed, officials said.

“When the flipper came free, the whale sped up, its tail got higher and it started moving better,” said Ed Lyman, the sanctuary’s Natural Resource Management Specialist. “All that was promising. We were defeated on the mouth again. We pulled, but you can’t pull too hard.”

Lyman said the juvenile whale was not in very good condition. It was emaciated and had patches of whale lice. More than 100 feet of line was removed.

Lyman believes it was the same whale reported to be entangled about a month ago in the same area. His team was unable to find the whale at that time.


“We definitely helped it, and increased its chances of survival,” he said. “But it’s worse off than we thought.”

Lyman said people should report any whale entanglements sightings to federal authorities and should not try to help the whales themselves. Without special permits it is against the law to get within 100 yards of a humpback in the water or within 1,000 feet with a drone or aircraft.

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