MONTEREY (AP) — Marine biologists managed on Thursday to free a humpback whale that had become entangled with a steel rope attached to a 300-pound crab trap.
The whale was freed off the coast of Santa Barbara after it was found on April 27 in Monterey Bay dragging the heavy fishing gear, according to KSBW-TV.
Rescue efforts began on April 28, when a team of marine biologists found the whale with blue steel rope around its tail and began working to cut it free.
The heavy crab pot was preventing the whale from diving to feed.
Peggy Stap of Moss Landing-based Marine Life Studies, one of the rescuers, told KSBW that the rope was wrapped so tightly around the animal’s tail that the tail would have been severed, killing the whale, if the rope had not been removed.
Strong winds and 10-foot seas in April forced the crew to shore before they could finish, but they were able to place a satellite tracker on the creature.
On Thursday, the team caught back up with the whale and managed to cut away the rope completely.
“The whale was absolutely exhausted and had been through so much. It had traveled 684 nautical miles since we found it in Monterey,” Stap said.
She is confident that it will recover completely, she said.
“They have a remarkable ability to heal. It wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t remove the rope,” Stap said. “It was so gratifying to see that whale swim free.”