LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA.com/AP) — Rescuers on Saturday said they had successfully removed more than 100 feet of fishing line from an entangled humpback whale that had moved south along the Southern California coast from Orange County to San Diego.
A team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was able to cut away up to 100 feet of rope and buoys Friday but the 35-foot-long whale became agitated and dove deep, eluding rescuers for the rest of the day.
It was first reported to authorities Friday by a whale watching vessel off Balboa Island along the Orange County coast and was reportedly stuck in two lobster pot nets.
Rescuers tagged the creature with a GPS tracker and hoped to find it again on Saturday.
The whale was spotted Saturday off the San Diego County coast. But rescuers cautioned that the chances of completely freeing the massive animal were slim because of its size and the nature of the entanglement.
The line was coming out of both sides of the whale’s mouth and under its pectoral flippers. A large knot of fishing line was trailing about 10 to 15 feet behind the whale and a single line strings out behind.
The line was also preventing the whale from using its tail as it should and it was compensating by using flippers to propel itself.
Crews from SeaWorld and San Diego County Lifeguards were responsible for Saturday’s rescue.
NOAA’s whale rescue team has responded to about 50 entangled whales since January — a spike that could be attributed to warmer waters bringing the giant animals closer to shore, where they encounter fishing gear, Viezbicke said.
Experts are trying to understand how the whales are getting entangled in the lines.
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