This Humpback Whale Got a Much-Needed Rescue

'Hog-tied' juvenile in Alaska had gotten caught up in a 300lb crab pot, and lines
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2023 10:35 AM CST
'Hog-Tied' Humpback Whale Gets a Rescue
The "hog-tied" whale, as rescuers approach.   (NOAA/YouTube)

When Alaska fishermen dropped a 300lb crab pot in the waters close to Glacier Bay National Park, they were probably hoping to catch, well, crabs. What they got instead was a much bigger catch—though not in a good way. As NPR reports, the crab pot and its lines got caught up in a juvenile humpback whale, who was spotted "trailing two buoys, making unusual sounds, and having trouble moving freely," according to a release from the National Park Service. "In a sense, the whale was hog-tied," NPS whale biologist Janet Neilson tells NPR of the whale that was tied from its mouth to tail. "It was curved into a C-shaped posture. The line was so tight that it couldn't swim in a straight line."

What they were dealing with was a 35-ton whale tied to "a 300lb crab pot with 450 feet of heavy-duty line" who was so anchored that it was swimming "in a tight clockwise circle," per the release. "The whale had a loop of line through its mouth that led to a large, heavy glob of tangled lines at its tail. In effect, the whale was hog-tied, its body bent sharply to the side as it swam in a predictable clockwise circle each time it came up." In another sign that whales aren't faring so well with fishermen in the area, the NPS says, per the Guardian: "The whale also had a distinct healed scar across its back from being hit by a vessel's propeller."

Officials deployed a drone to give them a better view, and rescuers who worked slowly and carefully to cut the lines. The humpback, after at least three days of being tied to the lines and the crab pot, was set free. Officials with the Large Whale Entanglement Response network were keeping an eye on the "little" guy. (More humpback whale stories.)

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