The moment Justin Viezbicke receives a report of a whale wrapped in a crab pot line, the clock starts ticking.

Despite a whale’s size, a single nylon line can do massive damage. As the whale swims, the lines pull and tighten, slicing into the animal’s flesh and cutting off circulation. Whales can lose limbs — and their lives.

“Finding an entangled whale is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Viezbicke, a biologist who is one of only three people in the state certified to lead a whale disentanglement. “Granted, the needle is large — but the haystack is larger. And you can only see its surface.”

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