Pod pushed orca to surface
A 6 metre orca called Dian had to be rescued about a kilometre east of Kawau Island, Hauraki Gulf, after it got stuck in a cray pot line.
It would not have survived but for the remarkable actions of five orcas, including her own calf, pushing the exhausted and entangled orca to the surface so it could breathe, rescuers say.
A team including Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser and Snells Beach marine enthusiast Riley Hathaway, 13, arrived to help free the 35-year-old marine mammal after it was spotted from a passing boat.
Rescuers put a camera underwater on a pole to assess the situation and the rescue itself was "textbook", Visser said.
She is unsure how long the orca had been tangled when they arrived at low tide.
"But if she didn't have support by the time it was high tide she would have drowned," Visser said.
"There was no way she could have dragged the pot to the surface every time she needed to have a breath because the pot weighed 35kg."
Visser said there are plenty of incidences of whales and dolphins supporting each other and even other species, including humans, when they require help.
The entire rescue was completed from a 5.8m boat, slightly smaller than the entangled orca.
The team of rescuers waited for the orca to surface before picking up the line with a boat hook and cutting Dian free.
They followed the pod for a number of kilometres to ensure it was unharmed.
Visser said this kind of rescue requires a lot of training and it was too dangerous to enter the water with the stressed creature.
Call 0800 SEE ORCA (0800 733 6722 ) if you sight any orca.