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Elusive Tangled Whale Freed Of Fishnets Off Sonoma Coast

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Crews attempt to rescue a whale off the Orange County coast on April 17, 2012. The same whale was spotted off the Monterey County coast on April 24, 2012. (CBS)

Crews attempt to rescue a whale off the Orange County coast on April 17, 2012. The same whale was spotted off the Monterey County coast on April 24, 2012. (CBS)

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BODEGA BAY (KCBS) – A gray whale that had been tangled in a fishing net for more than three weeks as it swam up the California coast was finally disentangled Thursday by a fishing boat crew out of Bodega Bay.

Mark Anello and his two-person crew spotted the elusive whale, nicknamed June, at 6:30 p.m. while they were setting crab traps off the Sonoma coast.

The whale was still towing two buoys that had been placed on it by rescue crews two weeks ago off the Orange County coast, said Anello’s father Tony, who recounted how they finally accomplished a task that had bedeviled entanglement experts all over the state.

“They saw these buoys coming at them at about three or four knots. And they stopped what they were doing and tracked the buoys for a minute, and saw it was tangled up with a whale,” said the elder Anello.

Although rescue divers in Southern California were able to remove some of the netting, the whale swam away and disappeared until it was spotted off Big Sur last week.

The whale thrashed around as the 48-foot fishing boat, just a few feet larger than the animal, was maneuvered alongside it, Anello said, then the animal quickly calmed down.

“One of the crew members said he was pretty scared. He thought maybe this guy’s going to slap the boat with the tail,” Anello said.

The fishermen used boat hooks normally used to grab crab pots to remove the remaining net, including some rope that became entangle in the whale’s mouth.

Afterwards, the whale circled around the boat, Anello said, “then followed the boat for a while, like saying thank-you.”

The crew turned the netting and rope from the whale over to the Marine Mammal Center for study.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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