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Rescuers working to save tangled whale off O.C. coast

April 17, 2012 |  5:55 pm

Whale rescue
A crew from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center was attempting to release an entangled gray whale that was first spotted off the coast of Laguna Beach on Tuesday.

The older gray whale, about 40 feet long, was towing 50 to 100 feet of line from its left pectoral fin, said Melissa Sciacca, director of development at the center.

It would mark the third whale rescue in a month off the Orange County coastline, though in the other incidents the mammals had become entangled in netting.

Three crew members aboard a rescue boat were able to attach the craft to a buoy as they worked to slice away the line from the gray whale, which has made its way south to the waters off the San Onofre nuclear power station, Sciacca said in an email.

The center is licensed with the National Marine Fisheries Services to help whales, which are protected by law, Sciacca said.

Last month, two California gray whales were tangled in netting or fishing gear off the Orange County coast and were later rescued, though one of the whales may have later died.

In one of the rescues last month, boaters tracked the whale from Dana Point to Rancho Palos Verdes before they could get close enough to cut the netting, fishing gear and even buoys from the animal.

Gray whales swim north along the California coast each year as part of their annual migration, with their numbers in Southern California peaking in recent weeks.

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-- Joanna Clay, TCN

Photo: A crew from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach works to untangle a gray whale from a line off the coast of Orange County. Credit: Courtesy Pacific marine Mammal Center. 

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