Tangled whale freed from fishing line

Posted at 7:07 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 22:07:33-05

A humpback whale is free after being tangled in fishing line off La Jolla.

Underwater video, shot by SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue team, shows a humpback whale essentially "hog-tied,” and unable to move in 300 feet of water. 

SeaWorld's team rushed to free the tangled animal before the sun set on Sunday afternoon. It was almost three miles off of Scripps Pier.

SeaWorld's Curator of Mammals Keith Yip was there for the rescue. Using a model humpback whale, he showed 10News just how bad the whale was tangled. 

"The line was through the mouth and had a poly-ball attached to one end,” said Yip.

The other part ran down its body, wrapped around a flipper, then wrapped numerous times around its tail. 

"There was some kind of weight on the bottom of this and it was keeping the tail down,” added Yip.

Rescuers cut the piece near the mouth first, then pulled the line out of its mouth, then made several cuts around the tail. They worked fast to free the animal before it got dark. Plus, whatever was weighing down its tail prevented the whale from getting its blowhole out of the water. 

“This whale was exhausted,” said Yip. “If we left it like that overnight, I believe it would've drowned."

SeaWorld crews found a number on the poly-ball attached to the whale. Now, the National Marine Fisheries Service will use that number to track down the fishing company that owned this fishing gear. Rescuers want to know how long the line was, where that gear was set and what exactly was weighing down the whale.

"It had great energy when we disentangled it. It took off north the direction, it should be going at a very high rate of speed,” said Yip.

It was a good sign for rescuers that the whale was completely free and no longer in any danger.

SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue team says this is its first whale rescue this year. Last year, the team freed three out of six whales entangled with fishing line.