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LATEST UPDATE: Tangled Whale Still On the Run

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is poised to finish cutting a gray whale out of fishing line, a rescue effort it started Tuesday off San Onofre State Beach.

UPDATE, 12:35 P.M. THURSDAY APRIL 19: Still no sign of the wayward whale, according to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center's Dean Gomersall.

"We had another false alarm, so we're still in a holding pattern," Gomersall tells Patch. "We have helicopters out there looking. The Coast Guard had to divert for a bit, but they'll be back on the search in a little while. Hopefully we'll spot him."

Gomersall says that the search will only continue for a couple of days, the assumption being that the whale will eventually swim out of the area and "hopefully be heading northward like he's supposed to be."

The buoys attached to the whale will eventually fall off, says Gomersall. It's also possible that he may back out of the remainding fishing line on his own.

WATCH VIDEO OF DEAN GOMERSALL WITH SOME OF THE FISHING LINE THAT WAS CUT OFF THE WHALE WEDNESDAY ... CLICK THE VIDEO LINK ON THE RIGHT -->

UPDATE, 4:15 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Dean Gomersall of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center just told us that it looks like the whale search will be called off for the day. The whale, nicknamed June, still hasn't been found.

"There's no real concern for the whale's health," says Gomersall. "It's really healthy, so we'll just start looking again in the morning. He has plenty of blubber to last awhile."

PMMC is actively working in conjunction with National Marine Fisheries Services to determine the new location of the whale. The Center has asked that if anyone sights the whale to call 1-877-SOS-WHALE. (Yes, really.)

UPDATE, 3:55 P.M.: Still no sign of the whale, despite several helicopter crews and rescue units from a variety of organizations on the lookout off the Orange County coast. The plot is thickening, and questions are mounting: is the whale purposely being evasive? Does the whale owe child support? Is it media shy? A waiting public is starting to demand answers. Stay logged on ...

UPDATE, 11:30 A.M.: Staff of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach are still waiting on word if the 45-foot, multi-ton gray whale has been located.

"We're in a holding pattern," says Dean Gomersall, an animal care supervisor at PMMC.

Three or four helicopter crews are actively searching for the whale, which has been nicknamed June by the PMMC.

Before losing contact with the whale Tuesday, the rescue crew attached three floating buoys to the whale to help spot it.

"We've done this in the past and we've been able to locate the animals before," said PMMC marketing director Melissa Sciacca.

A GPS telemetry ball device would be the best way to track a whale, but those are expensive and the buoys are effective, Sciacca said. The whale was found towing 50-100 feet of line, possibly from a lobster pot, on its left pectoral fin, and had another line stuck in its mouth. The team "disentangled a good portion of the line that was on the animal'' before suspending its work around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sciacca said.

Gomersall showed a reporter some of the line that was cut off June last night, as well as a small unnumbered orange buoy, which he says indicates that the line likely came from a non-United States source.

"We're also anticipating that some fishing lines and a lot of other stuff that's out there floated over from the 2011 Japan tsunami," Gomersall said.

In March, two other tangled whales were rescued off the Orange County coast and freed. Gomersall says that it's unusual for three whales to be caught in fishing line within such a short timeframe.

"It's very unusual. It could not only be from the tsunami, but it also could be that non-U.S. fisheries aren't being as cautious with their equipment as other countries," said Gomersall.

Though there are statistics from some sources that state thousands of marine mammals are caught unintentionally in nets and ocean debris every day around the world,the PMMC's Sciacca can't confirm any of them.

"There have been more instances of these type of rescues, and more people are seeing them and reporting them, but there are lots of different reasons as to why," Sciacca says. "This is the main migratory period for them, so they are more likely to get into trouble, but these incidents aren't even the main reason why we do these rescues. Usually it's due to the animals suffering from starvation and malnourishment."

ORIGINAL POST: The U.S. Coast Guard Wednesday morning was one of several groups scouting for a gray whale still trapped in fishing line as volunteers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center stood poised to resume their rescue efforts.

"We are actively searching for the whale, as well as Sea World San Diego, all the whale watching boats and helicoptor tours in the area," said Dean Gomersall, an animal care supervisor at PMMC. "He should be turning north toward Los Angeles, and marine-watching boats there will also be on the lookout."

The whale was spotted Tuesday and volunteers partially removed the fishing line. PMMC volunteers told ABC yesterday that the effort was complicated because the whale was being uncooperative.

The crew also found that there was more fishing line entangled in the whale's mouth, according to KABC.

"We had a 40- to 45-foot whale let us know in no uncertain terms that it did not like what we were trying to do for it," said Dana Friedman, one of the rescuers.

The whale was last seen at 6 p.m. Tuesday about 10 miles off the coast.

Michelle Hunter, the director of animal care for the center, said yesterday the group was using a volunteer's boat, supported by a boat from the Ocean Institute, but the Coast Guard will have to determine the location of the whale before the center can figure out what boats are available to rescuers.

The Coast Guard will first notify National Marine Fisheries, the agency that licenses groups like PMMC.

The team was able to attach three buoys to the whale to help track the whale, a 45-footer. It was initially towing about 50 to 100 feet of line stuck on its left pectoral fin and another line was stuck in the whale's mouth, CNS reported.

Read about the . Read about the .

-- City News Service contributed to this report.

T.Spayede April 23, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Shouldn't there be a 'net czar' in Wash DC. If not (sp), perhaps one could be created quite quickly, and action taken...Where there's a free willy at stake there must be a way. Also, maybe SeaWorld could be contacted; they have people that can 'free' a gestating 'whale' out of Marineland/Palos Verdes overnite (in a truck), and still tell a Wash DC like tale the same day...Gotta be some of those peops left somewhere, if they haven't migrated to DC already....(hint: W.Hse. Directory - Seaworld Czar Office/ Whale Ops Net Profit...?) (I think the CA ladies were around at the same time...they could have a check on it.)
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archie March 05, 2013 at 12:13 PM
News reports that tangled whale was sighted again in Laguna each. The 40-foot gray whale nicknamed June by the rescue team. If the whale is spotted, teams are ready to attach a special buoy that will emit a satellite signal, so that the animal can be better tracked. http://clickintobusiness.com
T.Spayede March 07, 2013 at 06:08 AM
...but whatif 'June' is not spotted, but all one color, can we still get an aqual-opportunity team out there...?...But then again, 'she' may not wanta be 'tracked' by somebuddy elses 'special buoy' ...when indeed, she may be looking for her 'Jonah' on her own...

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