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A charter fishing boat first reported seeing this humpback whale calf, snarled in fishing line, near Alaska's Halibut Cove in Lynn Canal. (NOAA)

Humpback Calf Cut Free After Getting Tangled In Fishing Line

Aug 18, 2011

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Another view of the calf shows the line wrapped around the front of its body. Scientists cut the line off while the calf, and its mother, were in motion.

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Reported by

Bill Chappell

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A humpback whale calf is swimming a little happier today, after being freed from fishing lines that had gotten snarled around its body.

I came across the story today, while updating an earlier post about the mysterious orange goo that raised concerns at an Alaskan village. Seeing that this other story involved a "large whale disentanglement team" from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries department, I was intrigued.

"We received a report of a calf entangled in line with a trailing buoy traveling with its mother at a rapid clip, about 5 knots," said Kate Savage, NOAA marine mammal specialist and veterinarian.

The rescue crew approached, and set about trying to figure out which lines to cut, and where, to free the young whale. But, Savage says, the mother and her calf didn't slow down to give them a better look.

"They maintained that speed throughout the disentanglement operation, which made things quite challenging."

And then there was mama-whale herself.

"The process was a bit tricky, as the mother humpback was very protective of her calf, and kept trying to position herself between the rescuers and the calf," according to a release from NOAA.

NOAA says that the calf swam off still trailing a bit of the line, which scientists expect to fall away of its own accord.

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