Rescuers Manage to Cut Fishing Gear From Struggling Juvenile Humpback Whale Off Maui

Some line couldn't be cut from its mouth. "We definitely helped it," said one of the rescuers. "But it's worse off than we thought."

An emaciated juvenile humpback whale in the waters off Maui has a better chance at survival Sunday after a crew of rescuers managed to cut away much of the 100 feet of fishing line wrapped about its left pectoral fin and mouth.

Unfortunately, the crew was unable to remove all the line tangled in its mouth in the rescue mission last week. But the young whale swam better and moved more quickly after its fin was freed from a tangle of line.

“When the flipper came free, the whale sped up, its tail got higher and it started moving better,” Ed Lyman of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “All that was promising.”

But, he added, “We were defeated on the mouth again. We pulled, but you can’t pull too hard.”

Lyman believes the whale is the same one reported off Lahaina entangled in fishing gear a month ago. Though the animal is better off now, it was still in poor condition and underweight, with whale lice, said Lyman.

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

The recovered gear will be carefully analyzed in a bid to determine its source and plan action to prevent similar entanglements in the future, according to Lyman.

Fishing line is a dire threat for many whales as it cuts into flesh and hampers mobility.