Elusive whale finally freed of nets

Orange County fishermen first spotted a whale dragging buoys attached to a fishing net up the California coast in mid-April. Despite attempts, no one was able to catch it to release the nets.

Cue Mark Anello, a crab fisherman in Northern California. While crabbing about three and a half miles off the Sonoma coast in his 48-foot wooden boat, he spotted something strange.

A group of buoys not far from his boat were moving.

As he and his crew moved closer, they noticed the buoys were actually attached to a whale — the same whale that had eluded potential rescuers in Orange County less than a month ago.

Anello and his crew, including his father Tony Anello, used a 12-foot bamboo pole to free the would-be Willy, who was thankfully nicknamed a much more sensible “June” by its previous rescuers.

The entire job took around 90 minutes before the whale was on its way. The movies always make it look easy.

After the crew removed the tangled nets, the whale seemed much happier, said the elder Anello:

“The whale circled the boat, surfaced and took off. It was like it was saying thank you.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations maintains a database of volunteer disentanglement teams that are called upon when an animals needs rescuing, according to Monica DeAngelis, the federal marine biologist who led earlier rescue efforts of the whale.

Anello and his crew are not part of the database.

DeAngelis said that if a someone encounters a whale in such condition to call for rescue and stay with the animal, but not to attempt to free it by themselves because such large creatures can be dangerous.

“They’re actually quite fortunate that they did not get injured. I’m not going to rain on their parade. They did something amazing, and they probably did save the life of this animal.”

Tampering with a whale is usually a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but Anello and his crew were exempt under its “good samaritan” clause.