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Rescuers Attempt To Save Humpback Whale Caught In Fishing Line [UPDATE]

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Update, 3:45 p.m.: A team with NOAA was able to cut the fishing line from the whale, reports the AP. Yay!

A rescue team is working to disentangle a humpback whale from 100 feet of fishing line off the coast of San Diego after earlier attempts to free the whale were made on Friday to no avail.

The AP reports that the same whale was spotted further up the coast earlier this week, first near Santa Barbara struggling with ropes. On Friday, ABC-7 reported that the 35-foot-long whale was swimming close to the whale watching boat Western Pride, which was carrying nearly 90 passengers, who at first thought it was just a whale doing whale things. "When we first saw the whale, he just came up and blew just like any normal whale," said Capt. Michael Harkins with Davey's Locker Sportfishing.

But it was apparent that it was in distress, and when the whale emerged, buoys, rope, and lobster pots were seen caught on his fins.

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"He looked tired, definitely every time he came up you could see he was just kind of laying there," said Slater Moore, a Davey's Locker photographer. "Usually their breaths are kind of short. They take a few breaths and they go on a deeper dive is what these whales normally do, and he seemed to be just kind of like conserving energy."

Members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were able to cut away about 100 feet of rope and buoys, before the whale became irritated and dove back down deep into the ocean, and wasn't seen for the rest of the day.

But on Saturday morning, the rescuers tried again when the whale was seen off the San Diego coast. Justin Viezbicke, of the NOAA rescue team, told ABC-7, "One of the questions we have is, how long has this whale been entangled? It's not emaciated yet. Its health is still pretty good and robust, but over time if that whale can't feed that's going to be very problematic."

According to the AP, the NOAA has responded to about 50 entangled whales since January; this spike could be due to warmer ocean temperatures that bring them closer to shore, where they're more likely to encounter fishing gear.