Rescuers Free Humpback Whale From an Illegal Fishing Net

Last week the crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society successfully rescued a humpback whale who was entangled in an illegal gillnet in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Mexico. While it was a big victory for this one whale, the incident highlights how much needs to be done to protect marine life from this type of threat.

Sea Shepherd is currently in the area as part of its campaign to help save the vaquita, who is the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise.  Despite past efforts to protect them, including the creation of a refuge in 2005, their numbers have continued to fall at an alarming rate. Scientists estimate there are only 50 or fewer individuals left in existence, and at the rate they’re declining, they’ll be gone forever in just a few years.

One of their main threats is being killed as bycatch after getting entangled in gillnets  that are used to catch shrimp and other fish, but they’re also suffering as a result of illegal fishing targeting endangered totoaba for its swim bladder, which is used in Chinese medicine and is also considered a delicacy.

While action has been taken by the government to alleviate this threat, including a 2-year ban on gill nets, enforcement has been a problem. Sea Shepherd has since joined the battle to save the vaquita through Operation Milagro II and is now patrolling their range.

Unfortunately, while these gillnets are a major threat to the existence of the vaquita, they also pose a serious problem for other marine species.

While patrolling the waters last week, the crew of Sea Shepherd’s research ship R/V Martin Sheen spotted a humpback who was seriously entangled within the vaquita refuge. With help from the crew from the M/V Farley Mowat, Mexican Navy and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), they began the rescue effort.

Sea Shepherd said in an update that the rescue took four hours, but when they were done the humpback was free and the net was taken by the Navy, which destroys them.

Sadly, according to Sea Shepherd, this isn’t the first incident involving a humpback whale. The crew spotted an entangled calf on Christmas Eve, but they were too late to help – it was already dead. Following that, they quickly received permission from the Mexican government to begin removing gillnets on New Year’s Eve.

Since then, both vessels have started trailing net retrieval devices to catch equipment lurking below the surface.  So far, Sea Shepherd said in a statement that they have already removed seven gillnets and three longlines in just the past few weeks, and have saved three endangered totoaba, seven rays, one whale, and dozens of juvenile sharks, in addition to countless animals who won’t be caught in them.

Hopefully their efforts will continue to make a difference in the area and help give vaquita the help they desperately need to recover.

For more info on how to help, check out Operation Milagro II.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

92 comments

william M
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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william M
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

"Following that, they quickly received permission from the Mexican government to begin removing gillnets on New Year's Eve.

Since then, both vessels have started trailing net retrieval devices to catch equipment lurking below the surface. So far, Sea Shepherd said in a statement that they have already removed seven gillnets and three longlines in just the past few weeks, and have saved three endangered totoaba, seven rays, one whale, and dozens of juvenile sharks, in addition to countless animals who won't be caught in them."

First of all EVERY government including the hypocrites in the US government should outright ban gill nets.

Second every single government should be dedicating its efforts to removing "ghost nets" from the ocean.

Third there should be a global effort to remove the millions of tons of plastic garbage from the ocean. The technology is already there.. DO IT

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Dianne D.
Dianne D3 years ago

The Sea Shepard will do a great job, just hope they have support. Reading Chris B. comments about no authority on the sea, they are right, but the boat has to come to shore sometime and the only way they can make money is to sell what they caught. That's the time to caught them, as they are nearing the docks.

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Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

Thank you Sea Shepard.

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chris b.
chris B3 years ago

Reading some of the comments: looking for an authority to stop this. There is no authority out on the sea. Who will monitor. Too much area to cover. People/fisherman do not abide by the laws.

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chris b.
chris B3 years ago

This is so beautiful and so sad at the same time. Thanks SeaShepherd for your very difficult work. Brings tears to see these creatures suffer so. very sad

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Karen Brinson
Karen Brinson3 years ago

Thank you Sea Shepherd! May you always have smooth seas to do your awesome life saving work! (Wild horses need a "shepherd" also!!!)

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 years ago

Well done! Thank you for taking the trouble to save them!

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