30-foot-long gray whale is almost rescued, then goes missing. ‘Something happened’

A boat scours the Northern California coast, but as the day wears on, rescuers on board wonder if the 30-foot creature will ever reappear.

Officials in Southern California on March 22 found the gray whale entangled in a fishing net, according to The San Francisco Standard. They tried to free it, attaching a tracking tag and two buoys as they attempted their rescue.

Suddenly, the whale went missing, fishing net and all.

Then the tracker stopped responding.

According to NBC Bay Area, the missing creature is on its annual migration north to Alaskan waters. Gray whales can swim at speeds up to 11 mph, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, although they generally swim more slowly.

So, it was not surprising to see the same whale hundreds of miles north near San Francisco on April 9 – still attached to the net.

When officials spotted it, they noticed the tracker had fallen off.

“We still haven’t figured out why, but something happened out there where the satellite tag buoy broke off,” Justin Viezbicke, California marine mammal stranding response coordinator for the NOAA, told The Standard.

Then, before anyone could attach another tracker, it was gone again, presumably continuing its journey north.

The search was back on.

While the whale can clearly move with the net on its tail, experts are concerned for its well-being given the added weight.

“This gill net on the tail is inhibiting the whale’s ability to swim like it normally would,” Viezbicke said. “The extra weight and drag is pulling down on its tail, and we’ve seen gray and humpback whales that have had their tails completely removed.”

He told NBC that the team tried to cut the net on April 9, but the whale was “reactive,” and the rescuers couldn’t do it.

“Our goal is to retrieve the gear that’s on the whale, so we can learn more about the entanglement and how it happened so we could use that to inform risk reduction efforts,” said Kathi George of the Marine Mammal Center, the Associated Press reported.

The search is ongoing.

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