Crews Free Whale Caught in Netting off San Diego Coast - NBC 10 Philadelphia

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Crews Free Whale Caught in Netting off San Diego Coast



    After two days rescuers finally freed a humpback whale Saturday from rope entangled in its mouth. NBC7's Matt Rascon has the story. (Published Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015)

    It took rescuers more than two days to partially free a humpback whale from rope entangled in its mouth.

    Crews worked to help free the whale off the coast of La Jolla shores Saturday, the same whale which had gotten stuck further north the day before. 

    A team, comprised of SeaWorld and San Diego Lifeguard workers, headed out to sea again to try to help the whale that entangled itself in fishing line off the California coast.

    Rescuers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed up to 100 feet of the rope and buoys late Friday. The 40 to 50 foot animal was spotted again Saturday off the San Diego County coast.

    Rescuers also attached a poly ball enabling them to keep track of the whale and giving them something to attach a knife or hook to when it came time to cut more line. 

    "That was instrumental in the success of this effort today," Seaworld rescuer Keith Yip said.

    Justin Viezbicke, a NOAA program specialist, said the rope was stuck in the whale's mouth and was caught under its pectoral flippers and also entangling its tail. Crews cut out a significant part of the the line from the whale's mouth, SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said, but because there is still line in its mouth the rescue is considered a partial disentanglement. 

    "There was no way the whale was going to shed the line because it was basically bound by [the rope,]" Yip told NBC7.

    Another 100 feet of knotted rope trailed behind the animal. Crews on scene said the line was tangled in a way that there was no way it would have come loose by itself. 

    Rescuers first cut the snarl of lines by shutting off the boat's engine letting the whale drag the boat while they cut the lines.

    They next attached a grapple to pull themselves closer to the whale to cut the second line of rope. The whale stopped and they were able to cut it with a folding knife. Finally the whale swam free of the rescue boats.

    They cut the rope as close to the whale as possible and say they hope it can shed the rest of the line out of its mouth.

    One rescuer said around three dozen similar whale rescues have happened recently off the West Coast. 

    A whale watching vessel reported the entangled whale Friday morning off Balboa Island.

    The animal seems otherwise healthy.