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Entangled baby whale eludes rescue efforts off Orange County coast

Rescue efforts were underway Monday, April 19, to help a gray whale calf entangled in buoy and line off the Orange County coast. The little one was traveling with its mother.

Rescue crews had removed part of what was entangling the calf, but as the sun went down and the whales became more difficult to spot, they had to leave the pair with the hopes they would be spotted off the coast in coming days for another attempt.

The entangled calf was first spotted by Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari at about 10 a.m. near the San Clemente Pier.

The whale watching charter contacted the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s large whale entanglement response team, as well as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.

Three private boaters and Capt. Dave’s boat stayed with the whales to keep track of the duo while rescuers hustled to the area. Footage of the rescue was shot by CBSLA from above, showing as rescuers tried to get close to the small whale.


The rescue team was able to attach a buoy meant to slow the whale down so the rescue team could try and get close enough to cut off the entangling lines, said Giselle Anderson, of Capt. Dave’s.

“You can’t do any cuts on the line until the animal slows down,” Anderson said. “It’s a very dangerous situation.”

She said it didn’t look like a net on the whale, more like gear from some sort of pot or trap.

“You could see the float from the trap floating from behind the baby. It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

The line appeared to be going around the baby’s face and was possibly wrapped around its right pectoral flipper, Anderson said. “It’s a pretty tough entanglement to work on, you have to get close to the face to cut.”

Krysta Higuchi, spokesperson for PMMC, said the mom was very protective of its calf.

“The mom would have its calf dive deep, our team was there for five hours,” she said. “We were able to get some of the drag, but not all of the entanglement.”

The team had to leave the two whales at about 5 p.m., she said.

Anderson said dolphins and whales are dying in nets and gear every day around the world.

“We saw one here, but there’s another 999 that are struggling somewhere else in the world today. This is their biggest threat,” she said. “That’s why we need to encourage people to ask where their fish is caught, how it’s caught.”

She encouraged people to try to eat sustainably-caught fish from operations that don’t use nets and gear to trap catch.

Boaters are asked to keep an eye out for the entangled baby whale, and to stay with the whale if safe to do so. But officials also warned the distressed whales may act unpredictably, so do not approach the animal.

Never attempt to free an entangled animal or to remove any gear without training and authorization. Report entanglements to 877-SOS-WHAL or 877-767-9425 or contact the U.S. Coast Guard at VHF Ch. 16.

Source: Orange County Register

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