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Wayward gray whale freed Wednesday from nets and rope returns to Dana Point Harbor

May 13, 2010 |  2:46 pm

Graywhale3

The wayward gray whale that was freed from a tangle of fishing nets and rope Wednesday afternoon and appeared to be heading back to sea returned Thursday to Dana Point Harbor, our sister blog L.A. Now reports.

Marine biologists had been concerned about the whale since she was first spotted, emaciated and lethargic, in the waters off Dana Point on Monday. They initially believed that she was aging and possibly sick, but the discovery of the tangled fishing equipment raised hopes that the foreign objects might be the source of her distress.

That certainly seemed to be the case Wednesday, when the whale, who has been given the nickname Lilly, was freed after several hours of work on marine mammal rescuers' part to disentangle her. In all, about 150 pounds of nets and rope were removed from Lilly's body during the rescue effort, according to the Associated Press.

When the last rope was severed, Lilly disappeared into the ocean, and her rescuers hoped that she would continue on gray whales' typical migratory path, which would lead her north toward feeding grounds in Alaska.

Her return to the Dana Point Harbor on Thursday morning leads marine biologists to wonder if she may be too thin and lethargic to make the trip north, but for the time being, they're taking a hands-off approach.

"At this point nobody with any team should be doing anything," Joe Cordaro of the National Marine Fisheries Service told the Orange County Register. "The only time we're going to do something different now is should the whale get so weak [that] it's stranded. As long as it's swimming on its own power, nobody should be doing anything with it."

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: The whale swims in Dana Point Harbor on Tuesday. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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