Rescue crews are working tirelessly to locate and save a massive blue whale that was seen entangled in fishing lines and buoys just off the Southern California coastline north of San Diego on Monday.
“Blue whales are highly endangered so for this animal to be entangled, we really want to help it. We did everything we could yesterday. It was really heartbreaking to be so close to that animal,” Captain Dave Anderson of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point told ABC7.
Anderson and his crew spotted the roughly 80-foot whale Monday around noon about 3 to 4 miles off the coast of Dana Point. He and his crew attempted to cut the fishing lines off the whale, but stopped when the whale became visibly distressed.
Subsequent rescue efforts Monday night were abandoned as nightfall came and a tracking buoy that was originally attached to the whale had to be removed for fear the equipment might be lost if the whale decided to dive far underwater again.
The whale was last seen headed south, toward San Diego.
On Tuesday, the National Marine Fisheries Service had contacted all whale-watching charters in the Southern California area to keep an eye out for the distressed blue whale. As of the publish time of this article, the whale had yet to be sighted again.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) June 28, 2016
“We've got the entire whale-watching community from the Channel Islands down to San Diego notified of the whale’s situation and out on the water looking for it,” Justin Viezbicke, the California stranding coordinator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, told GrindTV.
“The problem is, the whale is a needle in a haystack. It is a very large needle, but it is an even larger haystack.”
According to Viezbicke, the blue whale is entangled in about 200 feet of fishing line from a Dungeness crab pot that was set up near Morro Bay in Central California. The fishing line is dragging on both sides of the whale’s mouth, wrapped around its body and tail and dragging its tail down, tiring out the whale.
“The crab pot is still at least 100 feet below the whale on the fishing line, dragging it down, and we can’t reach that pot while the whale is moving, making the rescue effort more difficult,” said Viezbicke. “And because it’s an endangered blue whale, which we’ve never worked on, we have to be cautious as we establish a working history with it.
“But the reality is, if we can’t get some of the gear off the whale, there’s definite concern for the animal’s ability to survive.”
Viezbicke says that while in recent years reports of whale entanglements off the Southern California coast have been historically high, this is only the second instance he can remember of a blue whale (which normally live far offshore in the open ocean) becoming entangled in fishing gear.
Viezbicke stated that his agency will be working with fishermen up and down the California coast in an effort to lower the rate of entanglements.
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