HONOLULU (CNN/KHON/NOAA) - A humpback whale spends days tangled in fishing gear off the coast of Hawaii.
Wildlife experts stepped in to help, but it was tough to the get the whale the help he needed.
Last Friday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard and tour boat operators spotted it in waters off Lahaina. An adult whale nearly 40 feet long got tangled in about 100 feet of gear.
"And as you're probably aware, they are typically mobile," said Whale Endangerment Response Coordinator Ed Lyman. "They're able to drag that gear along with them."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to slow him down and keep him close to the surface so they could cut him loose.
So, they do what's known as "kegging."
"And kegging is an old whaling technique," said Lyman. "We're going back to Moby Dick era in the 1800s where they used to throw harpoons at the whales, not to kill them but to attach to them."
NOAA also attached a transmitter buoy to the whale, but the mammal kept fighting and didn't realize the crew was there to help.
At sunset, they called it quits. The stormy weather throughout the weekend prevented them from continuing.
They monitored the whale, which swam to Lanai on Friday night, Kahoolawe on Saturday and back to Maui on Sunday.
On Monday, NOAA was able to get close enough to the whale near Maalaea Harbor with a long pole and knife at the end of it.
"Basically reached down and made three cuts of lines around the tail," said Lyman. "All the entanglement was around the tail. It was already cutting him pretty deeply."
They left one piece of line on the whale because it was stuck in a wound. The whale had a couple of cuts in its tail, but when it was freed from the gear it swam off like a bullet.
Experts believe the mammal has a good chance of surviving. If they didn't help, the gear could have cut off part of its tail and become infected, meaning the whale could have died.
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