After two days of effort, rescuers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and SeaWorld San Diego managed to free a humpback whale that had become entangled in hundreds of feet of fishing line off the coast of California.
According to the Associated Press, the whale was first spotted in distress on Friday off the Orange County coast. "It was entangled from its mouth to its tail," the news outlet said, “and what appeared to be nylon rope streamed behind it.”
That day, rescuers with the NOAA reportedly managed to cut away about 100 feet of rope and buoys, believed to be from a lobster trap, before the whale became "agitated" and plunged deep into the sea.
The animal, which measured between 40 and 50 feet in length, wasn’t spotted again until Saturday when it turned up about 60 miles south, off La Jolla Cove in San Diego.
This time, a rescue team from SeaWorld San Diego was able cut away more than 230 feet of the remaining rope.
The team said, however, that there was still some line left in the whale's mouth when it swam away.
"We hope we gave this whale a second chance at life," said Kelly Terry, a SeaWorld spokeswoman, told the AP.
Another SeaWorld rep, however, told NBC News that given the excess rope, “we need to be realistic with regards to the ultimate outcome for this animal."
NOAA's whale rescue team says it's had to respond to about 50 entangled whales since the beginning of the year. Justin Viezbicke, a program specialist with the agency, told AP that warmer waters may be causing the mammals to swim closer to the shore, where they're at increased risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear.
"Our response network is really just a Band-Aid," he said. "We're looking for ways to be proactive and minimize these situations in the future."
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