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Officials free entangled whale off Maui

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M. Lammers/NOAA MMHSRP Permit # 18786-06
Line cutting into peduncle of entangled humpback whale. NOAA and other agencies rescued a humpback whale near Ukumehame, Maui on Jan. 26, 2022.

Responders from multiple federal and state agencies freed a humpback whale that was entangled in 140 feet of line and dragging a buoy about 60 feet behind it.

The response involved personnel from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries, West Maui Rapid Response team (trained personnel from Ultimate Whale Watch), U.S. Coast Guard (Station Maui), NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission, state of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources, and University of Hawaiʻi - Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (two teams involving whale and shark researchers). Pacific Whale Foundation research team was ready to assist if needed.

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E. Lyman/NOAA MMHSRP Permit # 18786-06
Entangled humpback whale with line trailing to trawl buoy.

PacWhale Eco-Adventures first reported the whale to authorities. The whale was rescued near Ukumehame in West Maui.

The animal’s tail was wrapped with a yellow line, which was connected to a buoy. According to NOAA, the whale was in good condition but the line was beginning to cut into its flesh. They determined the entanglement was life threatening.

Responders approached the whale from an inflatable and used a hooked knife to safely cut it free of all gear.

The tangle has been identified as local mooring gear. But further analysis will be done to determine where it came from, in hopes of reducing threats in the future.

If you see an injured or entangled marine mammal, keep a safe and legal distance and call the statewide NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 888-256-9840 or the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 immediately. If you are reporting a vessel coming too close to a whale, call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964 or email Additional guidelines and safety tips can be found at

It is illegal to approach a humpback whale closer than 100 yards by any means by sea or drone and 1,000 feet by aircraft.

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