Whale trapped in 'ghost net' freed by divers off US coast

A whale found entangled in a “ghost” fishing net off the US west coast has been freed by divers.

The giant gray whale was spotted in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, near Port Angeles on Friday by diving crews from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

The department tweeted they were working with other agencies to free the whale from a “derelict fishing net”.

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Together with crews from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the US Coast Guard, rescuers were able to set the whale loose after several hours, according to Peninsula Daily News.

The whale escaped unharmed and swam away as soon as the nets fell away, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The department tweeted after the rescue operation: “Response crews have freed the whale from the fishing gear and are now following it to ensure it’s healthy and safe.”

In 2019, a total of 26 whales were entangled in nets off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, according to a report by NOAA on the issue. Most of them were humpback whales, whilst others were gray whales and one minke whale.

Gray whales are smaller than humpback whales, measuring between 39 and 46 feet in length, whilst the latter can grow as big as 60 feet.

According to NOAA, derelict fishing gear – including nets, lines, crab or shrimp traps and other fishing equipment that has been abandoned or discarded – kills fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds.

The trapping and killing or marine life by the lost gear, also known as ghost nets, can lead to the deaths of endangered and protected species and cause damage to underwater habitats, as well as contribute to marine pollution.