A California gray whale found tangled in a fishing net off the Orange County coast swam free after a lengthy rescue over the weekend.
Whale-watching boats spotted the young cetacean stranded outside Dana Point Harbor with about 50 feet of netting and rope wrapped around its fluke, or tail.
With permission from the National Marine Fisheries Services, Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari attached a buoy to the animal to monitor it overnight as a team of whale-watch crew members, wildlife rehabilitation staffers and boaters with specialized training and gear assembled for a weekend rescue attempt the next morning.
The rescuers spent much of Saturday working to free the whale, using grappling hooks and lines to reel in the mammal and a knife to methodically cut away the mass of fishing debris. They named the whale Bart after the boater who stayed with it overnight as it drifted slowly up the coast.
After about seven hours, a line snapped
"The support team on the nearby boat erupted in cheers," said Dana Friedman, one of the rescuers.
The volunteers discovered other dead creatures in the netting: a sea lion, a 5-foot leopard shark, two angel sharks and various spider crabs, fish and rays.
"This whale was towing an entire ecosystem behind it," Anderson said.
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