A gray whale trapped in a large metal fishing frame is expected to swim through the Santa Barbara Channel today after it was last sighted off Newport Beach on Saturday heading north. Anyone who spots it is asked to immediately call NOAA’s entanglement reporting hotline at (877) 767-9425.
“If you see this whale,” advised the American Cetacean Society’s Los Angeles Chapter on its Facebook page, “DO NOT approach or try to disentangle it. DO stay with it: take photos, document it.” The conservation group noted that the metal apparatus “likely goes through [the whale’s] mouth.”
Rescuers with NOAA Fisheries’ California Stranding Network are working to develop a plan to approach the whale and remove the framing. The whale is the third tangled cetacean to be spotted off the coast of Southern California in the last two weeks. Last month, rescuers were tracking a whale tangled in a fishing net that was last seen near the Goleta Pier. No other sightings of that whale have been reported.
According to NOAA Fisheries, 71 separate cases of entangled whales were reported off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington in 2016, the most since the organization started tracking such incidents in 1982.