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Video: Entangled humpback whale cheats death

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jul 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-21 07:25:07-04

CRESCENT CITY, CA (KAEF/CNN) - A 45-foot-long humpback whale was rescued just three miles off the coast.

It was a full team effort on Wednesday that brought together marine animal agencies and the fishing community.

The video was taken by one of the fishermen who helped free the whale.

"The first report was on Thursday evening and the North Coast Mammal Center went up with the Coast Guard and was doing a reconnaissance. We were then able to assess where the animal was and that it was still moving." said Dawn Goley, direct of Humboldt State University's Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

She was part of the rescue effort.

"It was a pretty complicated entanglement. It had a few wraps around it's head of line, and one around its flippers, its pectoral flippers. And then it was tethered to the bottom of the ocean with these long lines that were attached to weights," Goley said.

She said the whale's head could barely emerge above water to breathe.

Goley said it took close to nine hours to free the entangled whale, but the whale couldn't have made it much longer on its own.

"I don't think that there is a way that it could of disentangled itself," Goley said. "Sometimes animals just get like one line wrapped around and they can get free on their own, but this whale wouldn't have gotten free on its own and it would've perished."

"The more lines that came off, the more free it became so it was able to breathe more easily and move more freely. And then at the end when it was totally free, it just swam sort of quietly around the boat and then it swam off," she said.

"It came back and it stared at us. It came back like three or four times and just hung out," said Damen Griffith, a fisherman giving a helping hand.

She explained that humpback whales feed on the Pacific coast from April to December, then they travel to the Gulf of Mexico to breed.

"It's also prime fishing season, and those two things overlap, and so where there is equipment in the water, whales can become entangled," Goley said.

In order to begin removing traps out of the sea, State Sen. Mike McGuire introduced Bill 1287, also known as the Whale Protection and Crab Gear Retrieval Act.

"If you lose or abandon a crab trap, a crabber can go out and pick up that lost or abandoned gear and get paid to bring it back to port," he said. "The individual who lost that crab gear or abandoned it then has to pay for it to get it back."

Goley said she expects all hands on deck when it comes to protecting our marine mammals.

"Based on our experience yesterday, the fishermen are our partners in this problem," she said. "You know, they don't want to hurt whales any more than the public wants them to, so we wouldn't have been as successful yesterday if we weren't working together with the fishing community in Crescent City."

Goley said state and local officials are moving in the right direction in regards of the protection of marine mammals.

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