Rescuers have freed a humpback whale that had been tangled in a crab pot line for more than two weeks.

Crews on Wednesday caught up with the whale off the coast of Santa Barbara, where it was twisted in the remnants of a crab pot line. It was first spotted April 27 in Monterey Bay.

Soon after the whale was reported, rescuers with the Whale Entanglement Team, a trained volunteer squad affiliated with the National Marine Fisheries Service, responded and attached a telemetry device to the lines so they could track the whale, said Peggy Stap, director of Marine Life Studies, a nonprofit whale advocacy and research organization based in Monterey.

The team was able to return the next day and remove the pot and 300 yards of line. But as swells climbed to eight to 10 feet, crews were forced to abandon efforts, she said.

Team members continued watching the whale and took advantage of relatively calm seas Wednesday, Stap said. The early-morning operation took about an hour and a half. The whale was wounded but is expected to survive, Stap said.

It was the second recently entangled whale. The other, also a humpback, was spotted May 1. Rescuers were unable to relocate it, and it is thought to have drowned.

Pete Kalvass, a senior marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said whale entanglements in crab lines are rare, particularly in the Monterey Bay area near the end of crab season, when fewer pots are in the water.


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If entanglements increase, Kalvass said, officials will investigate ways to attempt to minimize harm to the whales.

Stap said Marine Life Studies is accepting donations to assist with future rescues. In particular, the team needs another telemetry device. Additional information is available at www.marinelifestudies.org.

If you spot a entangled or injured whale, call 877-SOS-WHALE (767-9425).

Contact Becky Bach at 408-920-5862.