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Rescue crew helps entangled whale in Southern California

Crew helping an entangled whale in Southern California. (MMHSRP Permit # 1876-01)

Wendy Leeds/Pacific Marine Mammal Center Photographer

A gray whale off of the Newport Harbor in Southern California was found entangled in a pink small-mesh gillnet of unknown origin, according to a statement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Responders from the Orange County Large Whale Entanglement Response Team and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center assisted Monday in the rescue effort.

NOAA says the juvenile gray whale was first reported Monday around 10:30 a.m. local time by paddle boarders off of Crystal Cove and they say that initial report was critical to establishing the type of entanglement and location of the whale for an expedited response.

The Newport Coastal Adventure was contacted by NOAA to help find, standby and document the whale until rescue teams arrived around 2 p.m., NOAA says.

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Crew helping an entangled whale in Southern California. (MHSRP Permit # 1876-01)

Wendy Leeds/Pacific Marine Mammal Center Photographer

Local reports say that rescuers made several cuts to the net and the 30-foot whale eventually swam away at which time the teams suspended their effort. Officials asked the public to be on the lookout Tuesday for the whale.

The NOAA statement mentions: "Just before sunset the team made a cut that removed a significant portion of the gear. Unfortunately, due to the severe nature of the entanglement and the challenging behavior of the whale, the team was unable to remove all of the netting."

NOAA says prognosis for this whale's survival is unknown.

The Los Angeles Times cites NOAA data that reports of entangled whales are on the rise. NOAA says that in 2016, 71 cases were reported off Washington, Oregon and California.

NOAA encourages the public to report any sighting of an entangled whale by dialing the NOAA hotline at 1-877-SOS-WHALe or notify the U.S. Coast Guard by boat on channel 16.

Here's some footage of the gray whale seen in Newport Harbor:

Gillnet Tangled Gray Whale

Today we encountered a Gray Whale off Newport Beach which was severely entangled by a gillnet, a type of commercial fishing gear. The drone footage we captured was able to help in assessing the appropriate response by the NOAA disentanglement team, and one of our boats "babysat" the whale until help could arrive. We salute the skill and dedication of the NOAA disentanglement team who risked their safety to work on freeing this whale today. We want this video to bring awareness to the damage that gillnets can cause to non-target species. A gillnet is termed as an "indiscriminate" commerical fishing method, meaning there is a high rate of bycatch and damage caused to animals not being targeted. It has no place in today's oceans and most applications should be banned. NOTE: Disentanglement of whales may only be performed by a federally permitted team. It's extremely dangerous to approach an entangled whale as they may often be dragging lines and net far behind the animal. This whale had 150 feet of line trailing behind it. If you see a tangled whale call the Coast Guard or NOAA hotline; do not attempt it yourself!

Posted by Newport Coastal Adventure on Monday, December 11, 2017