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Humpback Whale Trapped in Fishing Rope Freed in Dangerous Rescue Operation


A humpback whale known to locals as “Ivy” was freed on Sunday after being trapped in fishing ropes in Cornwall’s Mounts Bay, at the southwestern tip of the United Kingdom. And miraculously, both the whale and rescue crews were unharmed in the operation.

Dan Jarvis, director of welfare and conservation for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), told the BBC that the ropes had gotten wrapped around the whale’s head and dorsal fin and were weighing her down. However, he noted that Ivy was fortunate enough that she could still make it to the surface of the water to breathe during the ordeal, or else it might have been a “very different outcome.”

Jarvis said that the BDMLR’s specialist team had been called in to assist with the rescue operation, but that she had been successfully cut free by crew from Penlee Lifeboat, search and rescue operations for Mount’s Bay.

“I really can’t understate how dangerous this potentially could be,” Jarvis said of the “incredibly risky” rescue efforts. “Experienced rescuers in other parts of the world, like Canada, have been killed doing this type of rescue.”

In a Facebook post, Penlee Lifeboat said that crews had happened upon the trapped whale while attempting to intervene with a paddle boarder who was experiencing difficulty in rough sea.

“During the return journey the crew became aware of a humpback whale identified as ‘Ivy’ … trapped in a fisherman’s ropes,” the organization wrote. “With skillful maneuvering the crew managed to cut the ropes free and with a thrash of its tail which freed the last rope, the whale was free.”

Hannah Wilson, the co-owner of Marine Discovery in nearby Penzance, said it was “only a matter of time” before something like this happened due to the number of whales that have recently been spotted on the Cornish coast. “They can get tangled up very easily,” Wilson said.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust said back in January that sightings have increased significantly over the last five years in the area, with at least 30 sightings recorded for the season alone.

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