An amazing and wonderful video that I came across a few years ago: Michael Fishbach, co-founder of The Great Whale Conservancy, his family and friends rescued a Humpback Whale from fishnets, and after being freed, the whale shows amazing appreciation to the rescuers.

The Great Whale Conservancy was launched in 2010 to advocate for the great whales, they need our help and protection to survive, to learn more about our current efforts, and find out how we can work together.

Fishbach spends two months in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) every winter, photographing the Blue Finback whales and Humpback whales, to help track these magnificent animals across our oceans while observing their complex behaviors in the wild.

On February 14, 2011, Michael, his family, and a few friends were presented with a rare opportunity, a chance to save the life of a Humpback whale, their efforts were captured on film, here is their incredible story.

Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets

“On Valentine’s day, while plying the waters of the Sea of Cortez, I came upon a young Humpback Whale that appeared to be dead.”

“We floated next to the whale for several minutes, but we saw no signs of life, suddenly the whale rose slightly in the water and forcefully exhaled. I decided to ease into the water with my snorkeling gear in order to assess the situation.”

“I quickly discovered the whale was severally entangled in a gill net of the type used by local fishermen. As I swam alongside the animals our eyes met, there were no words we could share, but I wanted to let the whale know that we were there to help.”

“It took some effort to stay focused given the great emotion of the moment, the sight of this large and beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming, and I must admit, I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued, but could still kill me with one panic movement. The situation was indeed bleak, the tail was entangled and so much gear, it was weighed down a full 15 feet below the surface, both pectoral fins were pinned to the side of its body and the nylon gill net went all the way up the whale’s back forward of the dorsal fin.”

Humpback whale size comparison
“I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was frightened and fatigued, but could still kill me with one panic movement”. Humpback whale size compared to an average human. Image: Wikipedia

“…it seemed too greater task, so I went back aboard to radio for help. We were told that perhaps in an hour someone would arrive and we all knew that by then it might be too late. While I was working around the pectoral fin, my boat mates George and Vera had managed to get some of the nets pulled over the side of our panga (boat). I came back aboard and we pulled and cut the net as fast as we could, we were maneuvering the boat into proper position with the pedal and only had one small knife, but after a great effort managed to free one of the pectoral fins.”

“Sensing a spark of freedom the young whale started to swim taking us on a Nantucket Sleigh Ride through the Sea of Cortez for about a half of a mile.”

“The whale eventually tired and came back up, right underneath us.”

“We continued to grab more and more net and haul and cut and after nearly a half-hour the other pectoral fin came mostly free.”

“And when the whale tired we began cutting the net off the powerful tail fluke.”

“Finally after about an hour of exhausting work, we decided we had enough net aboard to make the final cut, we were hoping enough net was off the fluke to free her.”

“She slowly swam away but about 500 feet from our boat we breached high into the air, I cleared all the net from underneath the boat and we headed off five tired but exhilarated people with a boatload of nylon netting.”

“For the next hour she provided us with an incredible full surface display we saw at least 40 breaches as well as tail lobs, tail slaps, and pectoral fin slaps.”

“We followed her for about four miles over the next hour and said goodbye. Needless to say, we were all proud and thrilled that we saved this fantastic young life, it was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.”

Humpback whale

Humpback whale
Humpbacks frequently breach, throwing two-thirds or more of their bodies out of the water and splashing down on their backs. Photo: Wikipedia

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12-16 meters (39-52 feet) and weigh about 36,000 kg (79,000 lb).

It has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making it popular with whale watchers. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating.

Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi) each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter when they fast and live off their fat reserves. Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net technique.

Bubble-net feeding is a complicated, highly synchronized effort that shows high biological intelligence. One whale usually leads the endeavor, diving deep and then rising up to the surface. From deep below, it’ll begin to blow air to create bubbles. It confuses and traps the fish above. Then, the rest of the team follows, creating a cumulative fence around the prey, like a corral. The whales then gather inside the bubble net and rise to the surface, mouths wide open.

Whales’ Bubble Net Fishing | Nature’s Great Events | BBC Earth
The humpback whales of Alaska have developed an ingenious method of fishing for herring, but it only works if they all co-operate.

Unfortunately, like other large whales, the humpback was a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a 1966 moratorium. While stocks have partially recovered, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and noise pollution continue to impact the population of 80,000.


M. Özgür Nevres

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