Rescue efforts underway off coast of Orange County, Calif. for entangled blue whale
The 70-to-80 foot long whale, entangled in crab lines, was spotted at about 3:30 p.m. ET Monday, swimming off the coast of Dana Point in southern California, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told CNN affiliate KABC.
NOAA Fisheries and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol are helping in the rescue efforts.
The whale is seen in aerial video surfacing and diving below the water, as a whale rescue safari crew encircles the giant mammal.
It appeared to be dragging around 200 feet (61 meters) of line and several buoys from its tail, a viewer from a nearby boat said.
Mike Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, told CNN affiliate KTLA it’s unusual for blue whales to become tangled in fishing nets because they usually stay far offshore.
This whale is three or four miles off the coast of Orange County, he told KTLA.
However, this would be 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.
Though animals entangled in gear for long periods of time experience distress, they are still capable of traveling great distances, according to NOAA.
There are 10,000 to 25,000 blue whales in the world, according to The World Wildlife Fund. 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.