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How to Disentangle a Tangled Up Whale

Every year, dozens of whales become entangled in fishing gear off the U.S. Atlantic coast. The Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network works to save them.

By Rich Press, NOAA Fisheries Science Writer | Posted: March 29, 2014
Follow Rich on Twitter: @Rich_NOAAFish

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Humpback whale entangled in line and buoys. View slideshow A response team led by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, working closely with NOAA Fisheries, successfully rescued an entangled humpback whale in 2013. Rescuers managed to cut away only 40 feet of trailing line on the first day of the response. But they also attached a satellite tag into the trailing gear, allowing them to relocate the animal a few days later. During the second attempt, they removed an additional 200 feet of line and two buoys, completing the rescue. Photo credit: NOAA disentanglement_02.jpg disentanglement_03.jpg disentanglement_04.jpg disentanglement_05.jpg disentanglement_06.jpg

Every year, dozens of whales become entangled in fishing gear off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. This is often fatal for the whales, and it's a particular threat to critically endangered species like the Atlantic right whale. To help reduce the threat, NOAA and several other agencies maintain a network of highly trained emergency responders whose job it is to disentangle large whales. This can be an extremely dangerous task. After all they're often working with animals that are tremendously powerful and painfully wounded.

Jamison Smith leads NOAA's Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Program, and in this podcast, he explains some of the techniques that marine mammal experts at NOAA and partner organizations have developed to safely disentangle a large whale.

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