Fisherman Jumps On Humpback Whale's Back In Dramatic Rescue Operation

Nov | 2.7K sharesMichelle Hambiliki

Whales face a number of threats in the modern world - from habitat destruction to becoming entangled in fishing nets and gear. And what makes these threats so terrible is the fact that they are almost entirely preventable. This is especially the case for the hundreds of whales that succumb to a slow and painful death every year when they become entangled in fishing nets.

It has even forced some species to the verge of extinction. Fishermen never intend to kill whales when they're trawling the ocean, but often they, along with dolphins and porpoises, end up becoming "bycatch" and are killed as a result.

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Getting trapped in fishing gear is an awful way to die. Like us, whales and dolphins cannot breathe underwater as they are mammals. This, amongst other things, means that they breathe air. Unlike fish that are equipped with gills, which allow them to take oxygen directly from water, whales have to come to the surface to breathe.

So when they're trapped in fishing nets, whales panic and become inflicted with painful wounds and broken bones as they try to escape. When they cannot struggle any longer, they close their blowholes and suffocate. Others carry the gear around with them for months to years and endure a slow death from either the infections or starvation.

In light of this, fishermen should make it their duty to prevent ordeals like these from happening, and where possible, free these animals from this often deadly gear. And that's exactly what one eel fisherman did recently.

Dramatic new video footage has emerged showing the moment one fisherman did everything he could to save a humpback whale's life:

After discovering a stricken whale, the fisherman, known only as Sam, dove onto the massive sea creature's back and cut it free from the fishing line it had become entangled in. Sam and his crew were on their way back from their commercial fishing trip off the coast of California and it was then that they came across the gigantic cetacean in his harrowing ordeal.

Sam's friend and co-worker Nicholas, who shot the incredible footage, said: "We were coming in from fishing and there was a white buoy that was wrapped around the whale's tail. He was, like, splashing on the water's surface."

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It took a whole three hours for the crew to save the pitiful creature. Sam managed to free it by hopping into the water and cutting the whale loose from the line so it could return to normality. They had spotted the whale from quite some distance away, but they were not sure what it was at first.

Once their vessel was nearer the creature, they realized it was a whale and that it was in a very tricky situation. So rather than simply stand around, they called for the coastguard and set to work. Nicholas continued: "We saw this big old whale tangled up in all that rope."

"That one rope was still holding him down to the ocean floor, and the whole time he was swimming in very tight counter-clockwise circles because all that rope was still attached to the bottom of the ocean."

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It then emerged that the coastguard wasn't coming. They said on the phone that they wouldn't be able to do anything to help the situation. This was about two hours into the rescue mission, but it became apparent that they really needed to go above and beyond to save the whale.

Sam was prepared to go to great lengths, according to his co-worker: "That's when we decided to get Sam in the water." He tried his very best but it was a struggle to free the creature. It was when they started the video that he begins to turn it around.

"He jumped in, was able to crawl up his back, and right then that whale fluke almost hit the phone out of my hand," Nicholas said.

Eventually, they coaxed the whale into remaining calm as it was clear they were only trying to help. And then finally, after three long hours, it was free.

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"This is going to sound super crazy," Nicholas explained. "But when the coastguard told us there was nothing else we could do, just let it be, I turned up the volume really loud on the VHF radio and yelled at the whale and told him to listen, and no one else was coming for him, and we're his only hope, and he better lay still and let us do this or else he's going to die. And this is going to sound super crazy, but he did."

It just goes to show what incredibly smart creatures whales are! Well done to Sam and his crew for dedicating all that time to helping the animal out. Hopefully, this story will inspire others to mirror the crew's actions and lend a helping hand to anyone in distress - regardless of whether it's a person or an animal.