Crews work to free gray whale from fishing gear off La Push

LA PUSH — Biologists on Wednesday were working to untangle a juvenile gray whale that had become stuck in fishing gear more than 15 miles off La Push.

The condition of the whale was not immediately available Wednesday afternoon.

The Coast Guard reported the entanglement on Twitter on Tuesday. A tracker was placed on the whale to help crews find it Wednesday.

Members of Cascadia Research Collective and SR3, two nonprofits that specialize in whales and whale disentanglements, responded on boats Wednesday with assistance from the Coast Guard, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official said.

“They’re headed out to see if they can make a run at disentanglement,” said Michael Milstein, NOAA Fisheries regional spokesman.

“It’s a juvenile gray whale that has apparently been entangled for a long time. The lines are deeply embedded in the whale.

“It’s not in top shape at the moment, so were not sure how likely it is to survive,” Milstein added.

“But the team will do its best to get the lines off of it.”

John Calambokidis, research biologist and founder of Cascadia Research Collective, was assisting with the disentanglement when reached by cell phone Wednesday.

He would not provide an update on the rescue or the whale’s condition.

“Nothing I can share at the moment,” Calambokidis said. “It’s an ongoing response right now.”

A spokeswoman with Coast Guard District 13 in Seattle said she had no further information on the rescue.

“It’s not real promising, but were going to do the best we can under the circumstances,” Milstein said in a telephone interview.

Milstein added that there had been four entangled whales off the Washington coast within the last month.

“Usually we get that many in a year, maybe,” Milstein said in a Wednesday email.

“We’re not sure why the number seems to be up this spring, but we are working with fishermen to try to minimize the risk of further entanglements.”

For information on whale entanglements and the NOAA Fisheries response program, click on www.tinyurl.com/PDN-entangledwhales.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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