Whale entangled in fishing line for weeks finally freed


Recently, we shared news of a gray whale rescue mission occurring off of the coast of Laguna Beach. We are glad to report that this story finally came to a happy close, nearly three weeks later. The 40-foot whale, dubbed June, was freed this weekend by crab fishermen near Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco.

The first attempt to disentangle June from roughly 100 feet of fishing line off of Laguna Beach was interrupted when the whale went missing overnight. The team from Laguna Beach’s Pacific Marine Mammal Center, trained and certified in whale disentanglement by NOAA, had partially freed the whale, but had to return to shore after dark for their own safety. The crew left buoys attached to the whale so they could locate it the following day, but it could not be found.

It was spotted a week later off of Monterey County, California, over 300 miles north. Another volunteer rescue crew stood by but was unable to perform the rescue due to bad weather.

On May 4, fisherman Mark Anello and his crew spotted and successfully freed June in Bodega Bay. They spent 90 minutes removing the fishing line, after which the whale circled their vessel before swimming away. “It was like it was saying thank you,” said Tony Anello, Mark’s father.

Anello acknowledges it was a dangerous operation.

According to federal marine mammal biologist Monica DeAngelis, entangled whales should be reported but not approached. Rescues should only be undertaken by crews trained in minimizing harm to the animal and rescuers. Nonetheless, DeAngelis praised the fishermen’s success, saying, “They probably did save the life of this animal.” 

Another gray whale, called Bart, freed from fishing line earlier this year, swims away after being disentangled, still bearing scars around its tail. With June there was also concern that, if the rescue wasn’t completed soon enough, blood supply could be cut off from the tail. Photo courtesy of DolphinSafari.com.

 

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