Diver’s heroic effort frees Bryde’s whale from deadly fishing gear

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César Espino cuts rope from the mouth of a Bryde’s whale.

A 45-foot Bryde’s whale that had become hopelessly ensnared in fishing gear off the Canary Islands is free after a local diver’s heroic rescue effort.

César Espino spent more than an hour Saturday diving repeatedly to cut ropes from the mouth and fluke (tail fin) of a cetacean that had been rendered unable to swim beyond surfacing for air.

The ropes, tethered to an anchored buoy, were part of longline gear set illegally off Morro Jable, a popular tourist destination on the island of Fuerteventura.

The whale was severely emaciated, indicating that it had been entangled for a long time, perhaps several days.

“As we approached the longline we saw a breathing whale and realized she was entangled in the rope,” Espino told Spanish journalist Lourdes Benitez Carrillo. “I quickly jumped in the water and let the whale see me to know I was going to try to free her. I felt sorry for her, so I did not hesitate a moment.”

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César Espino says of the entangled whale: “I felt sorry for her, so I did not hesitate for a moment.”

Espino’s friend videotaped the diver as he methodically worked to remove all sections of rope from the whale, at times stroking the mammal as if for a calming effect.

He said the rope running through the whale’s mouth was restrictive, “like the reins of a horse, and it was quite difficult to take off.”

Once the whale was free, it began to swim away. Espino and his friend followed the mammal in their boat for several minutes, and were pleased to see it gaining speed, implying that it was in reasonably good health.

The whale was identified as a humpback whale and a fin whale some social media reports, but experts who watched the video confirmed to GrindTV that it was a Bryde’s whale.

Bryde’s whales are baleen whales that filter feed on plankton and other organisms. They can grow to about 55 feet and weight up to 90,000 pounds, and are found in tropical and subtropical seas around the world.

The rescue footage, which first appeared on a page administered by Aridani Gonzalez Padron, was being widely shared Sunday on Facebook, and by Sunday night, it had garnered more than 380,000 views.

Many of the comments mimicked this by a Cetal Fauna follower named Tammy Jameson: “Awesome effort! Poor whale looks as though he hasn’t eaten for a very long time.”

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