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Authorities trying to free whale tangled up in synthetic line

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Posted at 1:30 PM, Feb 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-18 13:30:03-05

(CNN) — A humpback whale has become tangled up in a synthetic line attached to a buoy off the coast of the island of Hawaii.

Maritime officials are trying to find the right opportunity to unsnarl the roughly 45-foot-long mammal as it swims around the Big Island.

“We want it to come back to an area that is safe. It is not too easy to detangle a 40 ton animal,” said Edward Lyman, the Large Whale Entanglement Response Coordinator in Hawaii for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The humpback was first spotted Friday. It has since been sighted several times by people as it moves around the island counterclockwise, dragging the red buoy with it.

“We know that these situations are not immediately life threatening, but the animal will eventually succumb to this if we don’t rescue it,” Lyman told CNN on Tuesday.

Weather conditions and the whale’s shifting location appear to have complicated the task.

“We are standing by waiting for certain things to come together,” Lyman said.

Whales regularly get caught up in lines around the Hawaiian Islands.

“In the past year, 13 large whales have been reported entangled in gear and we cut one free successfully maybe two,” Lyman said. “The second one, we weren’t sure because the line didn’t shed away.”

He said the response network he runs manages to free on average two to four whales each year but doesn’t always find them when they are reported.