A humpback whale freed by divers from a tangle of crab trap lines near the Farallon Islands nudged its rescuers and flapped around in what marine experts said was a rare and remarkable encounter.

“It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing that it was free and that we had helped it,” James Moskito, one of the rescue divers, said Tuesday. “It stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun.

“Sunday’s daring rescue was the first successful attempt on the West Coast to free an entangled humpback, said Shelbi Stoudt, stranding manager for the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County.

The 45- to 50-foot female humpback, estimated to weigh 50 tons, was on the humpbacks’ usual migratory route between the Northern California coast and Baja California when it became entangled in the nylon ropes that link crab pots.

It was spotted by a crab fisherman at 8:30 a.m. Sunday in the open water east of the Farallones, about 18 miles off the coast of San Francisco.

Mick Menigoz of Novato, who organizes whale watching and shark diving expeditions on his boat the New Superfish, got a call for help Sunday morning, alerted the Marine Mammal Center and gathered a team of divers.

By 2:30 p.m., the rescuers had reached the whale and evaluated the situation. Team members realized the only way to save the endangered leviathan was to dive into the water and cut the ropes.”  VIEW FULL ARTICLE

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