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Dramatic Rescue To Save Endangered Whale Entangled In Fishing Line (PICTURES)

21/02/2014 12:57 GMT | Updated 21/02/2014 13:59 GMT

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A whale that became entangled in heavy fishing rope off the US coast of Georgia has successfully been freed.

Wildlife biologists had to cut away more than 280ft of the commercial fishing line which was being dragged by the whale.

Entanglement in commercial fishing gear and collisions with ships off the East Coast are considered the greatest threats to the endangerd right whale's survival.

More than 80% of North Atlantic right whales bear scars from rope entanglements, and almost 60% have been entangled twice.

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Experts estimate only about 450 of the large whales remain. Each winter they migrate to the warmer waters off Georgia and Florida to give birth to their calves.

It is now swimming easier than it was, but they had to leave the whale with at least 20ft of the thick rope still tangled in its mouth.

Clay Georgia, a marine mammal biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said they had given the whale a "fighting chance to shed the remainder of the rope on its own."

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He said the whale had suffered injuries to its head and tail.

"Disentanglement can't save every whale. The focus must be on prevention."

The team, including members of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, were directed to the whale by an aerial survey team and a satellite tracking buoy monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The four-year-old male whale is one of only 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales.