Possible sighting of entangled gray whale


One of the managers of the whale entanglement team told ABC7 they are trying to verify the sighting south of Big Sur. It may be in the same area where it was sighted Tuesday and that's why they're trying to determine that this was a fresh sighting.

The tourists aboard the Princess Monterey Whale Watching excursion are hoping to spot gray and humpback whales -- one in particular. One of the marine biologists on the boat told the tourists they should keep an eye out for the troubled whale, since they have a chance to make a difference in a whale's life.

The whale in trouble is known as "June." On Tuesday the 40 ton gray whale was spotted in the ocean near Laguna Beach. She is tangled in fishing net and her plight is making headlines.

"We're from Fresno, California and we've been listening to it all week on our news, local news," said Danni Zamora, a whale watching passenger.

A whale entanglement team is out on the bay looking for three marker buoys that were attached to the net around June's head and left fin. 'The team wants to free her from a danger that could prove deadly.

"We know that it does wear on them over time and is really a danger to the whale itself, so we want to get that gear off as soon as possible," said Paul Michel from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The first goal is to find June. She was last seen south of Big Sur, fishing boats and whale watching cruises have joined in the hunt.

"If there is anything we can do to help, we would love to do that," said Jackie Lindh, a Walnut Creek whale watching passenger.

The concern for June is two-fold. The fishing line is across her mouth, inhibiting eating and two, it could be cutting through the whale's blubber into its meat which could cut off circulation and lead to infection and possibly death.

If a sighting does take place, the professional entangled team plans to take photos from above and below the water, develop a plan to remove the line, and attach a tracking device so June won't disappear again. The good news is that she seems to be staying close to the coast, limiting the area rescuers have to search.

"Very, very dangerous. However, they're experts they know their animals, they've got great tools, long poles with just the right kind of hook where they can cut that line off very carefully," said Katherine Whitaker, a marine biologist.

Everyone following this Pacific whale tale is now watching and waiting.

"Just want to see this struggle and everyone working so hard to try to free her up and hope that comes to fruition," said Ron Gay, a Los Angeles County tourist.

Now the whale entanglement team will have a private helicopter up over the coast on Thursday searching the waters from Big Sur to Monterey.

Biologists say they don't know if this gray whale is a she or a he or where the name June came from, but it seems to have stuck.

If you spot the whale, call 1-877-SOS-WHALE.

ABC7's Terry McSweeney contributed to this report.

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