Boat Crew Manages to Free a Huge Humpback Whale From an Illegal Gillnet

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: September 20, 2023
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This exceptional footage has been shared by the Sea Shepherd conservation crew. The main aim of the project is to save the vaquita porpoise which is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. However, they sometimes come across other creatures who need a bit of help! On the 19th of February 2016, while patrolling in the Gulf of California, they got a call alerting them to a whale who had become entangled in a fishing net.

They headed to the scene to find a humpback whale caught up in an illegal gillnet. They summoned the Mexican Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection and the Mexican Navy to help with the rescue. This type of net is particularly dangerous because they are very large and any marine mammal can get caught up in them. The whale is distressed and has a net wrapped around its nose. In a hugely delicate procedure involving scores of humans, they manage to free it from the net but it is still attached to a line. Eventually, the whale is free and there is a well-deserved round of applause! Scroll down to see the full extraordinary footage of this heroic rescue.

Whale tail by boat

Humpback whales sometimes perform acrobatics!

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©Mircea Costina/

Where Do Humpback Whales Normally Live?

This humpback whale got into trouble in the Gulf of California. These animals are widespread in polar and tropical waters. They are most often seen in the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific oceans. Although, their range also takes in the Bering Sea and some areas of Antarctica.

They are a migratory species and during migrations, they can be found in coastal and deep waters. However, most of the time they are not found along coasts until they reach the areas of Long Island, New York, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There are several identified populations of humpback whales who lead isolated lives. The North Atlantic ocean stock is separate from the two stocks in the North Pacific. There are also some isolated stocks in the Southern Hemisphere.

The area around the Gulf of California, particularly the Baja California Sur, is a hotspot for humpback whale sightings. It is a popular destination for these animals all year round. During the winter months they go there for mating and to raise their young. Humpbacks in the area delight visitors with their frequent acrobatic behavior.

Whilst they have previously suffered population losses, there are now approximately 84,000 mature individuals. They are classed as a species of least concern.

See the Amazing Rescue Below

The photo featured at the top of this post is © alexander hauke/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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