An 80 foot long Blue Whale remains entangled in fishing gear for the second day, despite repeated attempts by rescuers to free it. This marks a growing trend of whales becoming enmeshed in ropes, lines, and buoys within the past year–but why? Whale watchers spotted the distressed blue whale at around 12:30PM PST on Monday, 3-4 miles off the coast of Dana Point, California. Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari spotted the whale on their first tour f the day, dragging 100 feet of buoys and fishing lines behind it. The crew tried to untangle the whale after initially finding it, but had to abandon the effort after the creature showed signs of distress. The whale “appeared to become more uncomfortable” each time rescuers approached and would dive deeper and longer, said Michael Milstein, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries. Subsequent rescuers attached a telemetry buoy to the whale to keep track of the animal but had to detach the device and return to shore because they feared the whale would swim away with it after it was untangled, he said.
“Today, NOAA will try to locate the whale and help disentangle it from the fishing ropes. They’ve warned people in the water to keep an eye out for the whale.” These endangered species are considered the largest and loudest animals on Earth, with natural habitats off the coast of California, Chile, and the Coral Triangle near Indonesia. There are only 10,000 to 25,000 blue whales left in the world, according to The World Wildlife Fund (to put that into perspective, think about how many people live in your city). Milstein told CNN affiliate KTLA it’s unusual for blue whales to become tangled in fishing nets because they usually stay far offshore. Blue whales can usually break out of ropes and nets because of their size and power, Milstein said Tuesday. Entangled humpback and gray whales are more commonly found, NOAA said. However, this marks the second reported incident of a blue whale entanglement off the U.S. West Coast in two years. Last fall, a blue whale was also entangled in fishing gear. In 2015, NOAA Fisheries identified 22 other cases of whales trapped in fishing gear off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. There were 39 other incidents in 2015 in which NOAA couldn’t identify what caused the entanglement. “NOAA has seen more entanglements in the last few years perhaps because the waters off the west coast have been warmer than usual,” Milstein said. “They’ve seen species in places they’ve never encountered but have no real evidence for what is causing this.”
A second effort to rescue the endangered whale is currently underway, as of Tuesday. If this whale continues to swim dragging the heavy fishing gear, the mammal could become fatally exhausted.