Tangled Whale Headed Our Way

Whale appears to be headed up the California coast toward the Bay Area.

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A gray whale spotted tangled in rope and debris off the Southern  California coast last week was seen again Tuesday in the waters near Monterey County, still towing rope and buoys.

There were no sightings Wednesday.

The 40-foot gray whale was spotted late Tuesday morning near Big  Sur, but has since disappeared from sight again, said Monica DeAngelis,  marine mammal biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration.

The whale had last been seen off the coast of Laguna Beach on  April 17 when members of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center were able to cut it  free of some, but not all, of the rope in its mouth and around its pectoral  fin.

The center, whose members nicknamed the whale June, is a Laguna  Beach nonprofit that rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals.

Members of the center also attached buoys to the remaining rope  for better tracking, DeAngelis said.

At this time of year, many whales are migrating north on their way  from Baja to the Arctic, a NOAA spokesman said. But NOAA does not know how  the whale became caught in the rope, or where the line came from. 

The rope poses a danger to the whale because it could impede  feeding and diving, or worse, sever the animal's pectoral fin, DeAngelis  said.

In an effort to save the whale, one of approximately 18,000 that  are currently migrating north, NOAA is coordinating a network of trained  disentanglement teams. The work, DeAngelis noted, is dangerous, and involves  dealing with a "wild animal" in a "small boat with sharp objects."

If the whale is spotted, teams are ready to attach a special buoy  that will emit a satellite signal, so that the animal can be better tracked,  DeAngelis said.

Although gray whales are not on the endangered species list,  DeAngelis said, they were until 1994.

Bay City News

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