August 30th, 2016 (Megan Abundis). Three entangled humpback whales have been spotted off our shores. Last Wednesday, an entangled whale, nicknamed Knotty, was spotted in Morro Bay. On Sunday, another entangled whale was reported near Shell Beach. Earlier this month, a third entanglement was reported off of Avila Beach.
A whale rescue response team says it’s been a record year for the number of entangled whale reports. With a third of the 2016 year still to come, 40 entanglements have already been reported.
“We had 49 confirmed entanglements in 2015,” said Justin Viezbicke, a California whale stranding network coordinator for NOAA fisheries.
Experts say one reason the reports have increased is because there are better feeding conditions closer to shore.
“We’ve been working with The California Department of Fish and Wildlife. There is a Dungeness crab task force that works directly with fisherman that works with our Entanglement Response Network. There is just a lot of challenges. One of the biggest ones is figuring out how these whales are actually getting entangled,” said Viezbicke.
For Knotty, the whale in Morro Bay, an orange cord is wrapped around its back and right side, dorsal fin and possibly through its mouth with a orange float on the side.
“Its really sad. It’s unfortunate. The lines that are used are abrasive, and when they are entangled, there is constantly movement. The motions cut through the whale’s blubber and it can be very damaging,” said Lee Egan, captain of Seaweed Express Avila Beach Boat Charters.
On Sunday, an entangled humpback was spotted two miles off of Shell Beach. The captain described the whale wrapped in green cord and an orange buoy trailing about ten feet behind the whale.
“It was surfacing with a pod of three other humpback whales and feeding actively,” said Egan.
Rescue teams are in the assembly stage, trying to see how they can help. They say it’s very risky with the float so close to the whale’s body.
A third entangled whale was also spotted near Avila Beach earlier this month. Experts know it’s different from the other two because the attached buoy has distinctive printed numbers and is trailing about 15 feet behind the whale.
Rescue teams are also dealing with three different reports in Monterey Bay and one in Alaska that have experts working quickly.
The Entangled Whale Response Network asks, if you see a trapped whale, call 1-800-SOS-WHALE and take many photos from a safe distance.