A team of rescuers has freed a humpback whale that was entangled in fishing gear off Hawaii, and captured the episode on helmet cam video in the process.

The whale was first sighted off the Big Island of Hawaii; last Wednesday, it was spotted again off Maui by a whalewatching boat, which stood by along with a response vessel until an authorized rescue team reached the scene. The team, with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, immediately established that the fishing gear was wrapped around the whale’s mouth and head, and along the right pectoral fin. The entanglement was considered life-threatening.

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Using a long pole with a specially-designed hook knife, the rescue team cut through and collected hundreds of feet of small gauge line until the whale was completely free of entanglement. The episode had clearly taken its toll: the whale was emaciated and pale in color, but its survival prospects are considered much higher as a result of its liberation.

This is far from the only humpback whale recently freed from entanglement off Hawaii. A calf was cut free off Lanai last December; since 2002, the Sanctuary’s Hawaiian Islands Large Whale Entanglement Response Network has received over 200 reports of whales entangled in gear.

Video courtesy of NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: http://www.youtube/com/user/sanctuaries