Hawaii officials have been looking for a humpback whale that appears to be caught in fishing gear and is dragging red buoys.
Fishing line seems to be wrapped across the whale’s body and tail, Ed Lyman, the large whale entanglement response coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said on Thursday.
The animal was trailing about 18m of heavy-gauge line and two red plastic buoys were seen caught in the gear. Marine mammal response teams are hoping to find the animal so they can attempt to cut it free.
The animal was most recently spotted off Niihau, Hawaii’s smallest inhabited island, by a tour boat captain and a helicopter pilot on Tuesday.
The whale was inside a crater at Lehua, a small islet just north of Niihau, when a Holo Holo Charters tour boat saw it, said Mel Wills, the tour company’s operations manager.
Lyman said the sighting is the 11th confirmed case of an entangled whale in Hawaii this winter.
Based on the size of the line and the buoys, Lyman said early evidence indicates the fishing gear is from Alaska. He said the whale may have become entangled in it there and swum south to Hawaii caught in it.