Spain: Whale trapped in illegal fishing nets freed by daring divers

Spanish divers try to cut an illegal drift net from a 12-meter-long humpback whale that has become entangled near Cala Millor beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/ Pedrosub NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES

Divers dove into the water next to the double-decker bus-sized mammal to free it (Image: Reuters)

Spanish divers managed to save the life of a 12-meter-long whale trapped in an illegal fishing net after freeing it in a daring operation.

The giant humpback whale got caught in a prohibited drift net off the island of Mallorca on Friday.

It is only the third time the species has been sighted in the Balearic region, but excitement quickly turned to concern when marine scientists realized it was in trouble.

Rescue specialists were alerted when the stricken creature was spotted by a ship about three miles offshore.

Divers from the Palma de Mallorca Aquarium have been dispatched to try to unravel it from the web, a strain banned because of the risks it can pose to wildlife.

The device had secured itself around its mouth, leaving the whale unable to eat, weakened and drifting dangerously towards the beach.

One of the divers involved in the operation, marine biologist Gigi Torras, said she thought the whale gave them a “little thank you sign” after freeing it.

The 32-year-old said: “It was out of this world, it was amazing, just amazing.”

Spanish divers try to cut an illegal drift net from a 12-meter-long humpback whale that has become entangled near Cala Millor beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/ Pedrosub NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES

Divers involved in the daring operation said the whale was cooperative and appeared happy to have the help (Image: Reuters)

A 12-meter-long humpback whale is seen caught in an illegal driftnet near Cala Millor beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/NGO Xaloc/Hector Gago NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The type of net it became tangled in has been banned for more than 30 years because of the risk it poses to marine life (Image: Reuters)

Spanish divers try to cut an illegal drift net from a 12-meter-long humpback whale that has become entangled near Cala Millor beach on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/ NGO Xaloc/Hector Gago NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES

The humpback whale is only the third of its kind to be sighted off the popular Balearic holiday islands (Image: Reuters)

After initial attempts to cut the net from a boat failed, divers from the Albatros and Skualo diving centers joined the effort and plunged into the sea to remove the net with their knives.

Ms Torras said: “The first ten seconds she got a little bit nervous you know like blisters everywhere but then I don’t know call me crazy but I think she knew we were there to help her, and she just relaxed and we started working from the front of her mouth to the back.

“We kept cutting and cutting and she kind of wobbled a bit trying to get out of it.”

It took 45 minutes of work to completely free the giant animal from the ropes.

She said the whale stayed around with the four divers to regain strength before swimming away.

30 years ago, drift nets were banned by the United Nations, nicknamed “Walls of Death” because of the amount of other marine life they catch in addition to the fish they are intended for.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/24/spain-whale-trapped-in-illegal-fishing-net-freed-by-daring-divers-16704144/ Spain: Whale trapped in illegal fishing nets freed by daring divers

Justin Scacco

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