This story appeared on September 30 and then disappeared:
ABC 10 News San Diego appears to be the only local media outlet that covered the story.
And the story didn’t run until four days after the humpback whale was rescued in late September. According to the ABC 10 News story:
“A private boater spotted the whale and alerted authorities on Monday, September 26. Soon after, SeaWorld San Diego Rescue quickly arrived at the scene.”
The media didn’t treat this as a big deal – so I will.
I think rescuing a humpback whale is a big deal, every time.
According to my research:
“Humans once hunted humpback whales to the brink of extinction; the population fell to around 5,000 by the 1960s.”
Illegal humpback whale hunting is still going on, and the species is also facing these human-made threats:
- Underwater noise which interferes with whale communication.
- Vehicle collisions.
- Over-harvesting of prey such as krill.
- Habitat degradation.
- Climate change.
- Marine debris.
- Getting caught in fishing gear.
“Getting caught in fishing gear” – as in this rescue story.
The ABC 10 New story was short and the details were scanty, including no information about the whale’s size.
So I’ll offer this graphic comparing a humpback whale to an elephant and a human:
In this image the humpback is 46 feet long, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “humpbacks can grow to 60 feet long, and they can weigh a whopping 40 tons.”
Now, our whale (and yes, I am thinking of him or her as “our whale”) may not have been that big, but considering the fact that at birth, humpback whales “are between 10 and 15 feet long and weigh up to a ton…”
There are no small humpback whales.
And when the SeaWorld Rescue team goes out in a little inflatable boat like this:
They’re way outmatched in terms of size.
The article said the humpback was “entangled in a rope,” which was understating the case. Here’s just one image of the piles of ropes and floats and who-knows-what-else the humpback was caught in:
And it’s worth noting that while the humpback was spotted off the coast of Carlsbad, a town located about a half-hour north of San Diego:
That’s not where the rescue took place:
“With help from NOAA, Oceanside Harbor Police Department, California State parks staff, and Del Mar Lifeguards, [SeaWorld] crews were able to safely relocate the whale to San Elijo State Beach area.”
The article doesn’t say why the groups relocated our humpback, but it was a distance (on land) of about 12 miles:
And I suspect “relocating” a humpback whale anywhere is quite a feat.
I’m pretty sure humpbacks tend to not listen to stuff like “Head south!” or, “Turn left!” or “Slow the hell down!”
Now the teams had our whale where they wanted it, and SeaWorld Rescue approached it in their boat. And then…
“Using a knife on the end of a long carbon fiber pole…
“…the team made a single cut, freeing the whale from the entanglement.”
Just imagine the skill that took – wielding a long pole with a sharp knife at the end while you’re standing in a boat that’s moving forward and up and down at the same time.
Knowing that one wrong move and the knife could cut the whale. And yes, while the whale wouldn’t be seriously injured, if the injury caused bleeding, well…
We know what lives in the ocean and is attracted to blood:
Instead, the knife sliced the rope and our whale was freed.
The alternative to our happy ending?
According to this article:
“Once entangled in the fishing line, whales may suffer for months, dragging heavy fishing gear behind them that hinders their ability to feed. Many entangled whales eventually die from infection, severed appendages, starvation, drowning or a combination of these impacts.”
I think SeaWorld Rescue demonstrated great skill, courage, and compassion.
For SeaWorld Rescue, it was just another day at the office.
And SeaWorld was quick to credit their fellow rescuers:
“‘The successful rescue of this whale was made possible by the collaborative efforts of all parties involved,’ SeaWorld San Diego Rescue said in a statement.”
Now: I am aware that SeaWorld and other marine parks get a lot of negative publicity:
As do zoos:
And I’ll leave the pros and cons to wiser heads than mine, because I don’t know the answer.
What I do know is this:
SeaWorld does important work:
I also know this:
That on September 26, SeaWorld Rescue saved a humpback whale, leaving it free to – hopefully – join friends for dinner…
Maybe have offspring…
And just live its life: