Rescue crew cuts loose gray whale entangled in fishing gear off coast

Rescue crew cuts loose gray whale entangled in fishing gear off coast

By Winston Ross
The Register-Guard

DEPOE BAY – Spotting the distressed gray whale was the easy part. Just off shore with three brightly colored buoys floating from its tail, anybody with a set of binoculars could get a good look.
Untangling the line wrapped around its tail was another matter entirely.

A tourist noticed the ensnared whale on Monday morning near Depoe Bay, one of many popular whale watching locales as the animals return from breeding in the warm waters off Mexico.

Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network coordinator Tamara McGuire got the call about 10 a.m. while responding to a report of a stranded sea lion in Waldport. By then, a U.S. Coast Guard boat had located the whale and confirmed it was indeed entangled.

McGuire and other members of the stranding network hooked up with the Coast Guard in Depoe Bay, which gave the team a lift to the whale’s location. The 25- to 30-foot mammal was swimming freely, but McGuire worried that it might be dragging a crab pot at the other end of the line. She’s seen tangled whales starve after losing their ability to swim and feed.

Unwrapping a whale is no easy task, however.

For the first hour or so, Coast Guard boats and a helicopter studied the whale, to see if they could spot what it was dragging and figure out the best way to free it.

By afternoon, the crew decided to use a pole with a hook on the end and a sharp inner edge to try to slice through the rope.

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