A humpback whale off the coast of Gloucester, Mass., is lucky to be alive after a rescue team disentangled it from a slew of fishing lines, Massachusetts Environmental Police tell WCVB. The whale was first seen Wednesday morning, and by 7:30 that night, a Center for Coastal Studies team had cut the animal loose. "If the whale is kept at the surface, it's possible for a team to use knives to free [it]," center rep Charles Mayo says. A 2012 Yale Environment 360 report noted that not only are fishing lines often lethal for big whales—the animals may also "endure enormous pain and prolonged suffering."
The same thing happened this week off the coast of California to a crab fisherman and his 5-year-old son, and California Whale Rescue officials say their willingness to stay with the whale until it was cut free probably saved its life, CNN reports. Calder Deyerle and little Miles were about 4 miles out from Carmel Highlands Tuesday when they saw the humpback swim by, dragging heavy fishing lines and floats. They called CWR staff, who removed the tangled mess using a pole-mounted hook knife. The whale then safely swam away after its seven-hour ordeal. "We've got to find a way to stop them getting tangled up," Mayo tells WCVB. "[This] is their ocean, and in some ways, we are just borrowing it." (Some good news: Most humpbacks aren't endangered anymore.)