MONTEREY, Calif. —Significant progress was reported Tuesday in the effort to free a humpback whale that has been entangled with a crab trap since Sunday in the Monterey Bay. Experts said the whale is expected to survive.
A whale entanglement team made up of marina biologists, NOAA experts, and the U.S. Coast Guard officers, was able to remove the majority of the netting attached to the whale’s tale on Monday.
While they were cutting the rope, three other humpback whales swam up to the troubled whale, seemingly to check on its well-being.
VIDEO: Update on effort to free entangled whale
The humpback was first spotted Sunday by a whale-watching group that noticed buoys were following the whale wherever it went. The severity of the problem was quickly discovered and the whale entanglement team was dispatched to save the humpback’s life.
“We were very worried but we were not going to leave the whale until other people got there that could help,” said marine biologist Nancy Black, who was on the boat that found the humpback.
Netting had wrapped three times around the whale’s tale.
“The drag was probably 200 or 300 pounds worth of gear underneath the water,” Peggy Stap of Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies said.
Humpbacks are arriving in the Monterey Bay right now from Mexico in huge numbers to feed until fall. The humpback migration started a couple weeks earlier this year, and is overlapping with the crabbing season.
On Sunday, a satellite tag was applied to the whale to help track it, so the team was able to find the whale dozens of miles offshore on Monday.
“We would have finished the entanglement today except that weather came in, we had 25 knot winds and ten foot seas and it made it particularly dangerous” said Pieter Folkens, of Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response.
“Every whale is important, and you don’t want to see them suffer,” Stap said.
If the humpback is not able to free itself completely naturally, the whale entanglement team is planning to head out into the Monterey Bay again on Friday