Marine life on the line

An entangled blue whale in Sri Lanka, January 2013. Photo credit Tony Wu.
An entangled blue whale in Sri Lanka, January 2013. Photo credit Tony Wu.

It reads like a mystery novel; the search continues for a blue whale entangled in a buoy line, heading towards Mexico from southern California. First spotted on September 4th off the coast of San Pedro, rescue teams tried to free the 80-foot whale but rough seas and failing light meant the operation had to be abandoned until the next day. To increase visibility, the rescuers tied a second buoy on the buoy line. Two days later, the rescue effort turned into a search mission as the leviathan vanished into the vast blue ocean.

The concerns related to entanglement are many fold – the animal could die of infection if the line cuts into its skin, or of starvation if the whale cannot eat because the line runs through its mouth. It might also become fatigued after dragging 200 ft of line and buoys behind it for many days. While US groups have rescued whales from entanglements before, they generally involve the smaller gray and humpback whales. A blue whale rescue of this nature is yet to be attempted.

Three days later, the whale was spotted 18 miles southwest of the Coronado Islands about 100 miles south of where it was first seen. Unfortunately, these waters are out of US jurisdiction and the local rescue group based in Mexico was too far south to get there before it disappeared again.

While entangled blue whales are a rare sight off the California coast, three incidences of gill net entanglement have been reported from the Gulf of St. Lawrence between 1979 and 2002. Back in January 2013 on the other side of the world in Sri Lanka, underwater photographer Tony Wu documented a whale that had a net wrapped through its mouth, —> Read More