Dramatic blue whale rescue unfolds off Californian coast

A life and death struggle to save a blue whale is currently taking place in the Pacific Ocean. The distressed animal is caught in crab nets just off the coast of California, and appears to be dragging 200 feet of line and several buoys from its tail, according to witness reports.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was notified, after the whale, which is estimated to be 70 to 80 feet long, was sighted behaving strangely on Monday afternoon, floundering in waters off the coast of Dana Point, in southern California. As a whale rescue safari crew gets close to the giant mammal, it can be seen in a video.

Chuck Gathers, an employee of Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari, which was helping authorities with the rescue, described to The Guardian how the crab nets were pulling the whale’s tail down. ‘Who knows how much weight it is?’ He said. ‘But to put a blue whale’s tail under water that far, it had to be quite a bit of weight.’

Thousands of animals, like this humpback whale snared in ropes and buoys, become entangled in fishing gear every year
Many animals, like this humpback whale snared in ropes and buoys, become entangled in fishing gear every year

According to the NOAA, it’s rare for these whales to become ensnared in crab lines, because they typically stay in deep water. This is the second time a blue has become entangled off the west coast of the US in the space of as many years, however, after another animal was snagged in fishing gear in Autumn 2015. Besides that case, NOAA Fisheries identified 22 other incidents of other whales becoming trapped in fishing gear off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California just last year.

With a global population of 10,000–25,000 (as estimated by The World Wildlife Fund), the behemoth blue whale are officially considered endangered. The largest and loudest animal that has ever lived on planet Earth, a blue whale’s call can reach 188 decibels (compared to the 140 decibel limit of a jet engine) and is audible by other animals hundreds of miles away, so it’s likely other whales are aware of its ordeal.