A gray whale that became entangled in discarded netting and a fishing buoy off the Orange County coast between Laguna Beach and Dana Point was freed today after being spotted off the coast of Redondo Beach, authorities said.
The whale was first seen from a helicopter Wednesday by a private citizen who notified authorities, said Kelli Lewis of Laguna Beach's Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Teams of rescuers managed to attach two buoys to the whale by nightfall Wednesday but had to cease their efforts until daybreak, Lewis said. The mammal is a "sub adult" -- older than a baby but not yet full grown.
This morning, the marine mammal center received tips that the whale was seen off the coast of Redondo Beach, Lewis said.
The whale, which was "making slow circles and really struggling," was freed at about 1:30 p.m., said Brad Sawyer, the captain of the whale-watching boat Voyager out of King Harbor.
Sawyer said they nicknamed the whale "Bob," after Sawyer's brother who died two days ago.
"We have decided to call this whale Bob as a way to honor my brother," Sawyer said.
By early afternoon, most of the netting had been removed, the whale was swimming mainly unencumbered, and the rescuers were returning to shore, Lewis said. We feel pretty confident that the rest of the netting will fall off," Lewis said.
Over the weekend, another gray whale was found entangled in netting outside Dana Point Harbor, and rescuers managed to cut away the netting and free it.
Monica DeAngelis, a marine biologist with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, told Pete Thomas Outdoors it's unusual to have two whale entanglements in the same general area in less than a week.
Nevertheless, she said whale entanglements are not uncommon. From 2001 through 2010, there have been 78 entanglement reports off California. Thirty-one involved humpback whales and 19 involved gray whales. The others were fin whales (four), a minke whale and unidentified species (22).