15 December 2005

Scuba divers rescue 50-ton humpback whale near Farallon Islands

A group of scuba divers rescued a 50-foot-long humpback whale that had become entangled in crab fishing gear near the Farallon Islands.

Commercial crab fishermen spotted the trapped whale around 8:30 a.m. Sunday and began making calls for help that eventually reached Mick Menigoz, a Novato fishing boat captain who also leads whale-watching tours, according to the fishermen and divers.

Menigoz, 48, received assistance from six scuba divers and three staffers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. The group located the entangled whale around 2:30 p.m. six miles from the Farallon Islands, a chain of rocky islands about 30 miles west of San Francisco.

The 50-ton mammal was heavily entwined in the crab fishing gear, with up to a dozen traps wrapped around its tail, pectoral fins and mouth, according to diver Jason Russey, of San Francisco.

Two divers snorkeled near the whale's head while a pair of divers with scuba gear dove below the mammal.

"The scuba guys below were able to make a few cuts with knives, and once we got the line tension relieved on the ends, we were soon able to lift them up and off the whale," Russey said.

The whale was freed a little over an hour after the rescue team arrived.

The Marine Mammal Center occasionally receives calls about whales getting tangled in fishing gear, but the animals usually free themselves and move on before they're located, according to Shelbi Stoudt, the center's stranded division manager. She said Sunday's incident was the center's first "unentanglement" in the region.

Source: www.sfgate.com


At 6:29 PM, Blogger riverofocean said...

It would be just amazing to see humpback, let alone being able to help save one. I am new to diving and am excited when I hear stories like this. Thanks for the post.


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