Rescuers on Saturday untangled a humpback whale that had been swimming down the California coast for days wrapped in hundreds of feet of crab trap line.
The whale, which National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration program specialist Justin Viezbicke said was about 10 meters, or 33 feet long, and weighed some 55,000 pounds (25,000 kg), first caught rescuers’ attention earlier this week off Santa Barbara.
NOAA’s rescue team began untangling the whale but it fled before it could be freed. It later turned up again off Orange County, more than 100 miles to the south, where rescuers pulled about 100 feet of line and buoys off before it fled again.
On Saturday it was spotted off San Diego, where a SeaWorld crew and area lifeguards worked with the NOAA to try to cut it free.
“The SeaWorld crew got off as much gear as it was possible, but there’s still gear stuck in the whale’s mouth and lines coming out of either side,” Viezbicke said. Nonetheless he said the whale appeared healthy despite the remaining gear and lines.
“The gear is used in cooler water” to the north, Viezbicke said. “We did recover the gear with registry information so we should be able to track it to the owner.”
Humpback whales are baleen feeders, which strain huge amounts of ocean water through their baleen plates to capture zooplankton, crustaceans and small fish.
NOAA’s Long Beach team has responded to about 50 entanglements since January.