The Big Blue Ocean Exploration

Humpback whale rescued after dramatic community effort in Mexico’s La Paz Bay

Juvenile mammal, measuring 30 feet, had become stranded on a shoal

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Juvenile humpback whale struggles on a shoal while rescuers attempt to pull it into deep water with a rope. Mammal ultimately was freed. Credit for images: Octavo Dia/Reporteros Sin Fronteras

Residents and tourists in the Mexican city of La Paz are taking it as a positive sign that a humpback whale rescued Sunday after becoming stranded on a shoal at low tide has not been seen since its dramatic ordeal.

The accompanying Spanish-language video shows portions of the rescue effort, and a 30-foot whale that’s clearly in dire straits as it struggles on the shoal. The effort lasted two-plus hours and the cameraman stopped filming before the whale finally was freed amid cheers from people on shore and in the water.

Octavo Dia reported that the whale was ultimately pulled free of the shoal with the use of ropes and added, “The effort followed the protocol for marine mammal rescue. The struggle to save the whale lasted over two hours, but the successful results incited elated uproar in the concerned witnesses.”

The juvenile humpback had become stranded beyond El Coromuel Beach during low tide, when the shoal had become partially exposed. El Coromuel is north of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. The whale entered La Paz Bay via the Sea of Cortez.

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Biologist Francisco Gomez says in the video that humpback whales are migrating north to Alaskan waters and that younger whales, especially if they’re sick, will sometimes swim to closely to shore and become stranded.

“Nothing seemed to be working as the whale was exhausted,” Gomez says. “In the end, the whale made it into deeper waters and was liberated.

Jonathan Roldan, who runs the Tailhunter International sportfishing business in La Paz, posted this Monday on its Facebook page:

“Hope you got to see this yesterday. It was incredible. About 30 pangas (skiffs) and launches out there trying to help this stranded whale right off the beach on one of the shoals. Folks were lined up in the streets with cameras and binoculars.”

Roldan said Tuesday afternoon that as far as he knew, the whale has not been seen. The hope is that it made it safely back into the Sea of Cortez. Roldan was interviewed about the encounter Tuesday by Phil Friedman Outdoors.

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