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Rope tangled around ailing whale in Dana Point Harbor

May 12, 2010 | 11:19 am

Whale Marine biologists are working to remove a fishing rope tangled around the tail of an ailing gray whale that has been drifting off Dana Point Harbor for two days.

It is unclear whether the rope is what is stressing the whale, said Tim Sullivan of the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

“It’s not clear yet whether or not that’s what’s causing it the difficulty,” Sullivan said. He said the emaciated whale, which appears to be old, may also be suffering from disease or infection.

The 35- to 40-foot-long whale, estimated to weigh about 30 tons, was first spotted in the harbor Monday. It has circled the port since then, Sullivan said, and is currently floating about 50 yards offshore near what is known as Baby Beach, a shallow, warm-water inlet inside the harbor.

A large crowd has gathered to watch the whale and cheers every two minutes or so when it comes up for air.

A team of marine biologists from the Ocean Institute and Sea World are trained in detangling whales from fishing gear, Sullivan said, and they have floated a small vessel to where the whale is drifting. If they can get close enough, they will attempt to cut the rope, he said.

-- Kate Linthicum in Los Angeles and Mark Boster in Dana Point

Photo: An emaciated gray whale that wandered into Dana Point Harbor spouts while a fisherman goes about his business. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times