Rescuers race to free blue whale tangled in fishing net

DANA POINT, Calif., June 28 (UPI) — Rescuers have been attempting to save the life of a blue whale tangled in a fishing net and various fishing gear off the coast of Southern California on Monday.

The 60-to-65-foot long whale, was first spotted about 9:30 a.m. by local whale watching groups near Dana Point, dragging crab lines. The whale appeared to be dragging as much as 200 feet of line and several buoys from its tail, a witness from another boat said.

Blue whales typically swim farther from the shoreline, making entanglement rare, NOAA officials told CNN affiliate KABC.

Rescuers have made at least six attempts to cut the lines pulling down the whale’s tail. At one point, a team was able to get closer than 20 feet to the tail, but could not cut the lines.

According to the NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Services data, 2016 is seeing a high number of whale entanglements — at least 40 since January — off California, which could top last year’s record high of 65 caught in crab and lobster fishing gear. It’s a marked jump from 2000 to 2012, when an average of just eight whales were entangled each year.

“If we had been able to cut the line, most of the gear would have come off,” said Capt. Tom Southern, who first spotted the whale in distress. “The whale also had line through its mouth. In my opinion, if this whale is not found very soon, his prognosis is poor. He was exhausted.”

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