Humpback whale freed from tangled fishing lines off California coast

Posted at 1:09 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 13:09:50-04

It’s not the catch they were expecting, but for one California fisherman and his son — it was the most important catch of the day.

Crab fisherman Calder Deyerle and his 5-year old son Miles are being credited by wildlife officials for spotting, reporting and then staying in their boat near an entangled humpback whale. Their actions may have saved the animal’s life.

The adult humpback was seen towing heavy crab fishing lines and floats Tuesday morning 4 miles off the coast of Carmel Highlands, California. Officials say fishing gear had accidentally snagged both sides of the whale’s flukes – the two lobes separating the tail.

The father-son team notified authorities who sent out members of the California Whale Rescue (CWR) operation, who used a pole mounted hook knife to release the lines from the animal. After about seven hours, the whale swam off unencumbered and the fishing line was removed from the water.

CWR says the Deyerle’s “willingness to stand by was vital to the success of the event.”

CNN affiliate KPIX reports that several whales have run into so-called “crab pot lines” because the late fishing season has clashed with the seasonal whale migration.

“We do see them out there just about every day, and we run up close enough…to see if their entangled, and if they are we notify…the rescue team,” Spud Point Crab Company owner Tony Anello told the affiliate.

The situation could have been fatal for the whale. Fishing line entanglements can cause severe injuries and even death for whales or other large marine life.