Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has just successfully freed a four-year-old North Atlantic right whale (known to researchers as No. 4057) from a commercial fishing line.

The video below details the heroic rescue effort. Biologists from Georgia DNR and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission used a variety of methods to help disentangle the terrified whale from a 100-yard long trailing line that had become caught in his mouth. They were unfortunately unable to extract the entire line, but hope they got enough of it to ensure the whale’s long-term survival, and that the whale will be able to shed the rest of the rope on his own.

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Wildlife biologist Clay George, head of the right whale research team at Georgia DNR, says that because whales cannot always be successfully disentangled from fishing gear, the incident demonstrates that “the focus must be on prevention.”

Entanglement in commercial fishing gear is sadly one of the leading causes of death and injury for North Atlantic right whales (who are listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List).

According to science and environmental journalist Rebecca Kessler, “Entanglement has become a fact of life for large whales. Scientists examining scars on whale skin estimate that 82 percent of North Atlantic right whales and about half of endangered humpbacks between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia have become entangled at least once.”

So will No. 4057 make a full recovery? George says, “Judging from its wounds, I suspect this whale had been hauling that rope for weeks or longer. It’s impossible to know if he’ll survive, but at least we gave him a fighting chance.”

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The National OCeanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) encourages anyone who sees a dead, injured, or distressed whale to call 1-877-WHALE-HELP (or 1-877-942-5343). Sightings can also be reported using NOAA’s Dolphin & Whale 911 smartphone app.

In the meantime, check out the video and celebrate No. 4057’s freedom!

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