Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco -January 24, 2009- (Special Contribution) Navy officials, along with local marine mammal experts, teamed up to free a Humpback whale from a life-threatening entanglement last Friday afternoon. Members of the Mexican Navy (Armada de Mexico), Vallarta Adventures and the Instituto Technologico del Mar (ITMAR) collaborated and successfully disentangled a fishing line from the whale. The rescue mission took place in the North part of the Bay of Banderas, the largest in Mexico and shared by Jalisco and Nayarit states, near Destiladeras beach on the Nayarit side.
The whale was entangled in 1/8 inch diameter "long-line" and had hooks in the tail, pectoral fins and baleen (whalebone in upper jaws). A long-line, also known as 'cimbra', is a high resistance commercial deep sea fishing line that uses hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks hanging from a single line, sometimes over a mile in length.
The whale was first spotted January 22 around 1 PM (Mexican Pacific Time = US MST) in front of the Four Seasons Resort (near Punta Mita, Nayarit) by the Mexican Navy's 8th Naval Zone based out of neighboring Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, lead by Lt. Luis Vidal. After a quick evaluation by PROFEPA (Mexican Environmental Protection Attorney Office), a rescue network was decided to be set up and assistance was requested from Vallarta Adventures and the ITMAR, the local marine mammal experts.
Ricardo Rebolledo, Marine Mammal Specialist at Vallarta Adventures stated: "(On) Thursday we were alerted by PROFEPA (They) told us (about) a whale entangled in a large quantity of deep sea fishing lines. The Federal Authorities were coordinating the rescue operation and asked us to join the rescue effort. We arrived on location at 3:30 PM MPT."
A second evaluation took place in order to thoroughly determine all risks and circumstances. The condition of the animal was assessed as life-threatening. The situation appeared to be even more delicate than expected, since the whale happened to be a nursing mother. Fortunately her baby was swimming freely, unwrapped, around her. However, the life of both animals was still at risk because of the calf was in the critical stage of learning how to breathe.
The process of cutting-free a large, autonomous-swimming whale, is also extremely dangerous for the people involved. Many amateur rescuers have either died or been critically injured in attempts to free such animals. Despite good weather conditions, the timing (only one hour left until dusk) and the rough waters combined with high tide made the operation too risky for both, animals and humans. At 5:20 PM MPT the operation was postponed and a buoy was attached to the whale in order to accurately keep track of the position so that the returning rescuers could find it the following day.
Thanks to the tracking buoy, no precious time was wasted and the whale was located quickly on Friday morning by the Mexican Navy. She was swimming in front of Destiladeras beach. Vallarta Adventures and ITMAR, each supplying a boat, joined the Mexican Navy at 8:00 AM MPT. While the Mexican Navy coordinated the movements of the whales with two boats, three diving instructors and a marine mammal expert of Vallarta Adventures tried to get rid of most of the material that was handicapping the whale. The whole operation had to be done with extreme care to avoid any stress on her and her calf.
Friday at 12:30 PM MPT, the mother was successfully disentangled and swam away free with her baby. This is the first successful disentanglement in the Bay of Banderas this winter, whale season. For Vallarta Adventures it happens to be the third time to be involved in a successful disentanglement operation since the start of their Marine Mammal Rescue Program 5 years ago.
While the sight of a helpless animal wounded or dying can be touchingly painful and provoke feelings of frustration or "the need to help", please be aware that in Mexico it is illegal for anyone without a governmental authorization to handle a marine mammal.
Vallarta Adventures offers a wide variety of tours and activities that are planned with incredible attention to detail and the right mix of safety, fun, learning, and challenge to keep everyone entertained during your vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco and Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico. http://www.vallarta-adventures.com