MANHATTAN BEACH ( — A 20-foot gray whale is now swimming free and unencumbered after a Marine Animal Rescue crew removed a length of rope that was snagged around his tail fins.

The rescue operation happened Thursday afternoon, spokesman Peter Wallerstein said.

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Rope tangled around the fluke of a 20-foot gray whale. (credit: Lars Gustafson/Marine Animal Rescue)

“The small whale was trailing about 10 feet of line on either side of it. We wasted no time and began our approach to attempt to free the whale,” he said. “By this time, the whale was close to shore.

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“The line was so tightly wrapped around the fluke, the first attempts to cut it free were unsuccessful,” he said. “Then we were able to snag the trailing line and pull ourselves closer to the whale,” Wallerstein said.

A two-man crew works to cut the rope tangled around a gray whale’s fluke. (credit: Lars Gustafson/Marine Animal Rescue)

After moving in closer, the crew successfully cut the rope and the line was removed from the whale, he said.

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Marine Animal Rescue plans to continue monitoring the whale’s condition while it remains in the area because of concern for the emaciated young whale’s health.