Crews working to free entangled whale in waters off Bay Area coast

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Wednesday, April 10, 2024
Crews working to free entangled whale in waters off Daly City beach
An effort began on Tuesday to help free an entangled grey whale in the waters of Daly City's Thornton Beach.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Troubling drone footage shows an entangled grey whale swimming off of the Peninsula coast Tuesday morning.

The video shows the animal with its tail entangled with netting and dragging a buoy through the water.

"It is relatively urgent in the fact that if we don't remove the gear and the whale can't get it off itself, it's most likely going to die from it," said Justin Viezbicke.

Viezbicke works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

He tells ABC7 News his team has been aware of this whale for weeks and have been attempting to free it.

Viezbicke says it was first spotted already tangled off the coast of Orange County at the end of March.

MORE: Event causing alarming number of whales to die and wash up on Bay Area beaches is over: scientists

"We were actually able to attach our satellite tag to it and a couple of poly balls. And the reason we do that is to actually slow the whale down and bring it to the surface," Viezbickie said.

Viezbicke says when his team approached the whale to try and untangle it down south, it became aggressive and they had to stop.

He says the idea behind the tracking device was to keep an eye on it as it swam further north on its way to feeding grounds in Alaska.

Once the whale became more tired out, the team would try to untangle it again.

But, Viezbicke says, the tracking device stopped working and they lost track of the whale until he was spotted Tuesday here near the Bay Area.

"It's really wrapped and caught on that tail and it's not going to be an easy task to get it off," he said.

MORE: Marine heat wave deadly for starving humpback whales, study says

After being spotted Tuesday morning, news of the entangled whale spread online.

Researchers from the Marine Mammal Center, NOAA and other groups went out to try and gather more information on the situation.

San Bruno resident Tony Corso saw it on a Facebook group and went out and shot the drone video with others looking on.

"There was just a general consensus that this was horrible and this should not have happened," Corso said.

Viezbicke says he's hoping they'll know more in the coming days about when might be the best time to approach the whale and try to get the gillnet off again.

In the meantime, he and his colleagues are asking the public to keep an eye out for the whale and report any sightings of it.

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