A rescue team has saved a juvenile humpback whale that had been entangled in a line for months in an operation Wednesday off the New Jersey coast, the federal fisheries agency said Thursday.
The first report of the entangled whale came last November, but a team's attempt to cut the line was only partially successful, and a tight wrap of line remained around its upper jaw, NOAA said, adding that it was "wrapped around especially sensitive locations, including the eye and blowhole."
On Wednesday, a team from the Cape Cod-based Center for Coastal Studies was able to make a delicate cut to disentangle the whale off Sandy Hook.
"If left alone, the animal had no chance," David Morin, NOAA Fisheries' Atlantic large whale disentanglement coordinator, said in a statement. "The whale would have died a slow and painful death. Even in response, the tight wrap left such a small area — about a foot or two wide — that we could cut."
An attempt to get to the whale last week in Raritan Bay was thwarted by Fourth of July boat traffic, NOAA said.
A Coast Guard helicopter spotted the whale Wednesday in the middle of the shipping lanes at the entrance to New York Harbor, where the rescue team could operate unobstructed.