Mother humpback whale with baby nearby freed from fishing gear off Maui

LAHAINA, Hawaii (KHON) – It took teams about six hours to remove more than 550 feet of fishing line wrapped around a mother whale’s head and front flippers off the shores of Hawaii on Valentine’s Day.

The whale, accompanied by her baby and a male escort humpback whale, was first spotted by a tour vessel, Napali Explorer III, on February 12.

Tour vessel Trilogy V saw her again on Valentine’s Day. That’s when NOAA responders moved in to free her outside Lahaina Harbor in Maui.

Once freed, the mother and her calf went into resting behavior, which response teams said is a successful response that increases both of their chances of survival.

Rescue teams were unable to recover the debris that had entangled the whale, according to a joint statement. Fortunately, they did get documentation of the gear that can be used to determine its possible origins.

Several agencies helped in freeing the mother whale including the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the Ultimate Whale Watch dedicated and trained response team, the U.S. Coast Guard from Station Maui, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, NOAA Corps, Cardinal Point Captains, and the University of Hawaʻii at Mānoa – Marine Mammal Research Program, NOAA Fisheries, the state of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources.

If you see an entangled whale or injured marine mammal, call the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 immediately. If you see a vessel coming too close to a whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964 or email [email protected]

For more information, visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary website.