The fishing line was acting like a 3,000-pound anchor attached to the humpback’s tail. It was a matter of life or death: the whale would get exhausted and drown if help didn’t arrive soon…
The good news for humpback whales is that their numbers have been on the rebound in recent decades. Still, these incredible marine mammals face ongoing threats from human activity, one of the most severe being getting caught in fishing lines.
One humpback who got tangled in a crab net was very lucky there were people nearby who saw what was going on, knew what to do, and were willing to spend hours doing it.
The whale’s unfortunate encounter with the crab net happened near the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. The net was acting like a 3,000-pound anchor attached to the humpback’s tail. Without help, this whale was doomed to become exhausted and drown.
Thankfully, James Moskito and his crew were in the area that day. Being a large wild animal, the whale was potentially dangerous. But its behavior made it clear that it wanted help and knew that these people represented the only hope. They immediately set to work — as Moskito described it, “It was grab ropes, grab ropes, tie ’em in a knot, cut ’em, cut ’em, sink ’em.”
The amazing thing is how cooperative the whale was. As if it was at the dentist, the humpback kept its mouth open while Moskito and his crew pulled lengths of line that were caught in the baleen. It took five hours of hard work, but the whale was finally freed from the life-threatening tangle.
This whale wasn’t going to forget to say thank you: it did some figure eights before diving deep. Moskito will always remember what happened next: “Looking down in the water, the next thing I know this whale is coming right up at me.
It was like a slow-moving bus. And it stopped, literally stopped six inches away from my chest and nudged me forward like your household dog does if he wants to be petted.”
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