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Rescuers free gray whale in Dana Point from rope and nets

May 12, 2010 |  5:00 pm

Eric Otjen from Sea World San Diego and Dean Gomersall from the Marine Mammal 
Center in Laguna Beach try to untangle a gill net and rope lines from the body 
of a gray whale

The gray whale that had shown signs of distress as it swam in the waters off Dana Point over the past few days has been freed from rope and nets that had become entangled around its head and tail.

Although marine biologists initially believed the whale to be old and likely close to death, a closer inspection revealed the tangle of nets and rope. Still, it was unclear whether the foreign objects were causing the whale's distress or whether age or illness were to blame.

Fortunately, a team of animal rescue workers from SeaWorld San Diego, the Dana Point-based Ocean Institute and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach was able to remove the nets and rope Wednesday afternoon. Our sister blog L.A. Now reports on the effort:

Rescue workers floated out in the bay in two inflatable skiffs. Barry Curtis, who was on one of the boats, said he caressed the whale and spoke soothingly to it as other workers used a long pole with a sickle-shaped cutting blade on the end to untangle the whale. He said the whale appeared young, not old, as marine biologists had first suspected.

The whale, which remained relatively calm during the hours-long rescue process, began swimming away as the last rope was severed and has since returned to sea.

RELATED WHALE NEWS:
Japan welcomes new whaling proposal; animal advocates decry it
Whale-watchers in California are concerned over decrease in gray whale sightings

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Eric Otjen from SeaWorld San Diego and Dean Gomersall from the Marine Mammal Center work to untangle a gill net and rope lines from the body of the gray whale on May 12. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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