A man recently risked his life to rescue a 15-foot trapped whale, caught in a treacherous illegal fishing net off the island of Fuerteventura in Spain’s Canary Islands.
Later identified to be a Bryde’s whale — a species often seen off the Canary Islands — the whale was caught up in the ropes of the illegal fishing net, which reportedly also had a buoy covered in treacherous fishing hooks.
As reported by the Spanish language news service El Diario, Cesar Espino has since been hailed a hero for the efforts of himself and a friend, as Espino risked his life to save the trapped whale.
Reportedly, Espino and his friend were out on a whale and dolphin-spotting boat on January 2, when they spotted the whale and immediately noticed it was in trouble.
— Fuerteventura (@__Fuerteventura) January 4, 2016
Espino told the Spanish media, “As we approached the fishing line we saw the breathing of the whale and we realized that she was entangled in the net.”
He reportedly dived into the water and first swam around to face the trapped whale, to let her know he was there and he said her face seemed to plead with him to help. Espino found the whale’s mouth and tail were entangled in the net and started to cut away at the net with a knife to free the trapped whale.
“I quickly jumped into the water and let the whale see me so she knew I was trying to help her. I felt compassion for her and didn’t hesitate in freeing her from the ropes.”
It reportedly took Espino over an hour, wearing only snorkel gear, to free the trapped whale. Initially he freed the tale from the netting, which he said was relatively easy, but it apparently took much longer to free the whale’s mouth.
“The netting across her mouth was from side to side, like the reigns of a horse, and it was quite difficult to take off.”
Once the whale was free, the two men watched for several minutes to ensure it was fine and, eventually, the whale gained speed and swam away from them.
Espino’s friend caught the rescue of the trapped whale on video, which has received thousands of views on YouTube since it was uploaded on January 3 and it can be viewed below.
Bryde’s whales are often seen off the Canary Islands, normally at the end of winter and beginning of spring. The whales usually pose no threat to humans and are filter feeders that eat plankton. However, a swimmer getting too close to one of these giants could be knocked unconscious by the whale’s powerful tail.
— GranCanariaInfo (@AlexBramwellGC) January 4, 2016
As reported by The Local, Spain is currently taking action to protect whales in the Mediterranean Sea by planning to provide a “whale highway” to give the huge animals clear access for a safe migration.
Spain’s Environment Ministry is planning a route off the eastern coast of Spain, running between Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The route is to be designated a “Specially Protected Zone of Mediterranean Importance” (Zepim). Should the plan go ahead, exploratory drilling by oil companies will be banned in the area, as this practice can severely harm the marine ecosystem.
Environmental campaigners have been pushing to ban oil drilling in the area and should the plan proceed, it will definitely be a victory for their cause.
Carlos Bravo of the Alianza Mar Blava, said, “This is a clear warning to companies that want to carry out exploratory oil drilling in the area of the environmental unfeasibility of their projects.”
Reportedly, the plan to protect the whales’ migration routes is also supported by the European Commission, who say this would be a major advance in the protection of marine biodiversity.
While the Canary Islands tend to see Bryde’s whales, the Mediterranean Sea is home to several different species of whale, including fin whales, pilot whales and sperm whales. There are also sporadic sightings of killer whales in the area.