With fishing trawlers increasingly tossing nets deeper into the ocean, tales of innocent marine animals being entangled are becoming all too common. Late last month, that was exactly what happened to a humpback whale that was making its way through the waters of California's Monterey Bay.
While nobody knows when the marine mammal became entangled in the ropes of a 300-pound crab trap that had been lowered into the waters, it came to Peggy Stap's attention on April 27th. The researcher at Marine Life Studies in Moss Landing, California, immediately alerted officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and local marine biologists who rushed over the following day and managed to cut the ropes and free the animal from the crab trap.
However, the whale's woes were far from over - That's because before the researchers could cut the rope that had become entangled around its tail, the weather turned stormy, forcing them to return to shore. Fortunately, the one thing they were able to do, was put a satellite tracker on the mammal. This allowed them to keep tabs on its location at all times.
Though it took a few weeks for the weather to clear, on May 15th, the rescue crew was finally able to free the whale, who had managed to swim all the way to Santa Barbara,a distance of 684 nautical miles, with the rope tightly intertwined around its tail. According to the scientists, the poor mammal who would have probably lost its tail had they not been able to locate it in time, appeared exhausted after the ordeal.
Humpback whales, who get their name from the distinctive humps on their body belong to the family of baleen whales, which includes the world's largest mammal, the blue whale. While not as large, humpbacks can get pretty big, with adults ranging in length from 39-52 feet and weighing over 79,000 pounds. The whales typically do most of their feeding during the summer months, when they are in the polar regions, and spend the winters living off the fat, as they migrate about 3,000 miles to their tropical breeding grounds.