A blue whale seen off Palos Verdes trailing a nylon line and a buoy may have been spotted Monday in Mexican waters.
The whale, originally seen by the passengers and crew of a whale watching boat Friday afternoon between San Pedro and Catalina Island, vanished after rescuers suspended efforts to free the behemoth due to hazardous conditions and approaching nightfall. It was trailing 200-300 feet of tangled line that may be attached to a crab or lobster pot or a net.
Rescuers had attached a second, larger buoy to the line being trailed by the whale so that it would be easier to locate, but come Saturday morning, the massive sea creature — estimated at 70-to-75 feet in length — was nowhere to be found.
This morning, however, a whale trailing a buoy of the type attached by rescuers was spotted about 18 miles southwest of the southernmost Coronado Islands off the coast of Mexico, Jim Milbury of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
It was heading in a southeasterly direction at about 4 knots, he said.
“We may be able to respond if the whale moves back into U.S. waters, but for now we will be in contact with another rescue team in Mexico,” Milbury said.
He said that rescue team’s range, however, is south of the whale last reported location.
It hasn’t been confirmed that the whale spotted Monday is the same one seen Friday, but Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue, which led the rescue effort on Friday, told City News Service that given the description of the buoy, it’s a good possibility that it is.
Marine Animal Rescue donated equipment to rescue teams in Mexico a couple of years ago because “they had a lot of gray whales getting entangled in fishing nets during their migration to Baja,” Wallerstein said.
He said attaching the larger buoy was the right move, despite concerns that it has added to the whale’s burden.
“I’m still happy with that. That’s why they spotted the whale,” he said.
Smaller gray whales have been rescued from entanglements, but no one had ever tried to rescue a blue whale before, Wallerstein said.
Blue whales are believed to be the largest mammals to have lived on the planet, measuring about 80 feet on average, which makes rescues extremely dangerous.
Asked why a locator beacon wasn’t attached to the whale on Friday when rescuers used poles with knives attached to try to free the colossal cetacean, he said one was at the ready, but the National Marine Fisheries Service denied permission for it to be deployed.
He didn’t know the rationale behind that decision and Milbury did not immediately respond to a message asking why permission was denied.
“We were ready to do that,” Wallerstein said. “We had it with us and were ready.”
— City News Service
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