Featured Image Credit: Michael White
By Jessica Kittel
Well, it can’t be comfortable.
One particularly unfortunate gray whale has been seen multiple times in the last few months off the coast of California. What makes this whale so unfortunate? Well, it has a square, metal and rather large fishing frame embedded into what would be their neck (if whales had necks, of course).
Officials have been on the lookout for this individual ever since it was first spotted on a whale-watching excursion near Santa Barbara County. The whale watchers had the wherewithal to contact and alert the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Mammal Stranding Network. However, initially, this whale managed to effectively evade assistance.
When officials did relocate the whale they discovered that due to the tricky nature of the entanglement, freeing this animal would be no simple task. The metal is what creates the challenge as most of the disentanglement gear the team has is normally used for cutting fishing line and rope. Those that have seen the gear up close speculate that it looks like it might be a rack used to suspend either mussels or oysters.
While whale entanglements are becoming increasingly common (there have been 71 reported thus far this year off of California, Oregon, and Washington alone), being entangled in a metal frame is rather uncommon, if not unheard of.
The whale is thought to be in the process of making its’ migration from the warm mating grounds in Baja California and Mexico to Alaska, where it will spend the rest of the summer eating in the nutrient rich feeding grounds.
News of the plight of this whale has been widely spread and boat captains have been asked to keep their eyes out for any sight of the unfortunate creature. While there seems to be little hope for this animal’s survival Dr. Bruce Mate, of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, was quoted saying “I’ve seen animals in worse situations survive.”