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Whale caught in fishing gear freed in Maine

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A 40-foot-long humpback whale that got caught in fishing gear off Mount Desert Island has been freed, according to the head of a whale-watching boat.

The whale, known as Spinnaker in the whale-watching community, was spotted Friday by a Bar Harbor Whale Watch boat. Lead guide Zack Klyver told the Portland Press Herald that a rescue team was able to cut away a lot of gear that night, but the whale’s tail remained entangled.

Rescue workers rigged up buoys to take the weight of the nets off the animal, and returned Saturday to cut away line that was wrapped around the whale’s tail 30 times. The whale swam away quickly once that happened around 5 p.m.

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The rescue team included the Maine Marine Patrol, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass. Klyver said the fishing lines had rubbed off a patch of skin on the whale’s back, but rescuers did not believe the wound was serious. Officials have asked whale-watching boats in the area to take pictures of Spinnaker if they see him in the next few days.

The whale was identified by the Center for Coastal Studies, which keeps a catalog of humpback whales. Believed to be 11 years old, the whale previously was freed from an entanglement in 2006 about 20 miles from Saturday’s location.