Blue Whale Lost After Rescue Attempt off Dana Point

Blue whale fluke (S. Kodikara / AFP / Getty)
S. Kodikara / AFP / Getty

Six attempts to free a 60-plus foot blue whale from fishing materials on Monday came close, but were ultimately unable to provide relief as the giant mammal dove out of view.

Captain Tom Southern observed the whale off the coast of Dana Point Headlands on Monday morning, realizing that it couldn’t lift its tail. He then saw “200 feet of blue polypropylene line with two bullet floats used on Dungeness crab pots,” according to the Orange County Register. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol aided in keeping track of the whale as long as possible on Monday.

Rescuers came close to freeing the whale with one attempt seeing knife-to-line contact, but the line proved too tough. The line was attached to a crab pot, which weighed down the whale’s tail,  according to the report. Tuesday sightings called in to NOAA turned out not to be the same whale, and officials say they will continue attempts to free it should the animal be found.

Politicians have seized on fishing gear entanglements, crafting legislation that advocates say is aimed at regulating lost crab traps and recovery of gear. Center for Biodiversity attorney Kristen Monsell told the Register that Senate Bill 1287 is a “good start,” but still wants more.

Justin Viezbicke, rescue coordinator for the NOAA, works with several groups to respond to distressed whales, according to the report. He was among those who responded to the blue whale on Monday.

Southern is a captain with Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari, and also works with NOAA, according to the Register. Dave Anderson, who operates the business, is also part of the NOAA rescue team and relayed that the NOAA tracked the Dungeness crab traps that were attached to the whale through identification numbers. Rescuers hope to find the whale before long, as Southern said that it was showing signs of exhaustion.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 


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