Entangled juvenile gray whale spotted off Montage resort in Laguna Beach
An entangled juvenile gray whale was spotted off Laguna Beach on Sunday, with whale watching captains keeping a careful eye on the mammal with hopes that a rescue team can help.
The 25-30 foot whale, heading northbound, was swimming in about 50 feet of water about ¼ mile from shore off of the Montage hotel near Treasure Island, said captain Todd Mansur of Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
Mansur said the whale looked to be 2-3 years old, and didn’t seem to display signs of distress, though it was swimming about a mile and a half slower than normal.
Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari captain Tom Southern first noticed something strange about the whale on an early morning charter on Sunday, but then lost sight of it. Another boat captain later saw the whale and confirmed the entanglement.
Southern noted that it was “super mellow,” and staying in shallow waters close to shore.
They contacted authorities with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Stranding Network, though it’s unclear if a response team will be able to help.
Justin Greenman, assistant stranding coordinator for NOAA, said they are reviewing footage and checking with response teams to see who, and if, someone can get out to the area, with key responders out of town.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center, part of the stranding response team, was experiencing phone trouble with a power outage that hit the area Sunday afternoon.
“At this point, we have to see if we have people available,” he said.
Greenman said he’s in touch with teams in the Los Angeles area to keep an eye out for the entangled whale that could be heading their way in the next few days.
Helping the young whale might be a difficult task.
Mansur said the line looked to be wrapped around the tail several times, and there’s less than 20 feet trailing behind the tail – making it tough for rescuers to get close enough to safely remove the netting.
“We’re just in the baby steps in figuring out how to respond,” Greenman said.
For now, various whale watching charters take turn keeping an eye on the creature to track its whereabouts. Newport Coastal Adventure’s boats headed down the coast to help keep watch.
“The ultimate goal is to help the whale. We all work together, every company out here is working together for the benefit of the whale. We want to see if there’s anything we can do,” Mansur said. “And most importantly, free the whale.”
Another reason they don’t want to lose sight of the whale is so they can track its health.
“I don’t know if it’s going to suffer a casualty from this. I don’t know if it’s severe enough that this whale is going to have continued difficulty,” Mansur said.
A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released last December shows whale entanglements in U.S. waters in 2017 were slightly above the 10-year average, but on the West Coast there’s been a decline in reports.
In all, there were 31 entangled whales reported along the West Coast in 2017 compared to 62 in 2015 and 71 in 2016.
The good news for the whale spotted Sunday is that there’s no signs of lice on its body, it has a healthy amount of barnacles, and it doesn’t seem to be too thin, Mansur said.
“Who knows, with any luck, the net will work its way off,” Mansur said. “But it’s unlikely.”
Check back for updates and photos.