Crews free humpback whale tangled in fishing line off Hawaii

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — A 45-ton humpback whale tangled in heavy fishing line in Hawaii waters for more than a week has been freed.

A crew from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Saturday used a pole equipped with a knife to saw the line free, West Hawaii Today reported.

Several hundred feet of heavy line used for hoisting crab pots was cut away, said sanctuary spokesman Ed Lyman.Entanglements can result in drowning, starvation, infections and increased susceptibility to ship strikes, according to whale experts.

The entangled whale was spotted Feb. 13 off the Big Island's Kona Coast by Big Island helicopter tour companies.

The West Hawaii Marine Mammal Response Network documented the whale's conditions and attached a tag allowing the animal to be tracked by satellite.

Tour boats and tour helicopters helped track the whale throughout the week.

The sanctuary planned a rescue for Feb. 16 but called it off when the whale moved into rough waters.

"We decided to stand down and be patient and wait for the weather," Lyman said.

The crew got its chance Saturday and sidled up to the whale in an inflatable boat. 

The crew grappled and held the line before attaching more buoys to keep the whale from diving, Lyman said.

The inflatable boat was towed behind the whale at around 3 knots as the crew pulled to within 10 feet of the 45-ton creature and began cutting line.

"There was no sudden thrashing. It would trumpet blow, which is a sign of stress," Lyman said. 

"It definitely wasn't happy with us being there. It didn't understand."

All line but a small piece lodged in a wound was cut. 

The fragment should fall out naturally as the wound heals, Lyman said.