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Distressed humpback whale tangled in fishing net off San Diego coast

Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 15, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Heartwrentching video of a humpback whale tangled in fishing net off of San Diego's coast prompted wildlife experts to react quickly.

But the whale's condition is unknown after rescue crews were unable to help the animal.

The video was captured Friday by Domenic Biagini, owner and captain of Gone Whale Watching San Diego. What appeared to be another spectacular whale sighting turned into heartbreak.

"We got really excited because we saw these giant splashes," Biagini told 10News' Amanda Brandeis. "From that elation to kind of, pure heartbreak."

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NOAA and SeaWorld crews were notified of the whale. But SeaWorld said the whale was swimming too fast for them to continue rescue efforts.

"15,000 pound animal jumping out of the water next to a small boat that they're trying to use to rescue it is extremely dangerous, " said Biagini.

Now the hope is agencies further north are able to find the whale to make sure it is freed from the netting.

The face of the 30-foot whale appeared to be tangled in green fishing net. The netting was a drift gill net, which hangs vertically in the water and could measure up to a mile long.

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"They are notorious for being dolphin, whale, and sea lion killers," Biagini said.

Biagini said at one point, another humpback whale arrived and swam by the tangled whale.

"To see something that graceful, that gentle, that harmless go through something like this that's 100 percent caused by us, there's no debate on it. It's maddening," says Biagini. "For me. that's when I really started to get emotional because these are very sentient animals that do feel a wide range of emotions."

This season, boaters are already being warned to watch out for newborn gray whales making their way from Alaska to Baja, Mexico. Biagini says some adult gray whales may give birth during the trek south because of the late migration.