Italian coast guard organizes effort to rescue sperm whale from fishing nets

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THe Italian coast guard divers worked throughout Sunday to free a sperm whale caught in fishing nets.

The whale became entangled in nets in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Island archipelago. Boaters on Saturday spotted the whale struggling and contacted the coast guard.

Video shared on the coast guard’s official twitter shows the organized efforts by divers and biologists to free the whale by cutting the lines with knives. The operation to free the sperm whale was complicated due to “its state of agitation,” which prevented the divers from continually working on the lines, the coast guard said Sunday.

In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian coast guard divers were working Sunday to free a sperm whale which was entangled in a fishing net near a tiny Mediterranean island. In a coast guard video, a diver can be seen slicing away some of the net in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Island archipelago.

The operation to set the sperm whale free was made particularly difficult “due to its state of agitation” that doesn’t allow continual intervention near the creature, the coast guard said in a statement.

In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian coast guard divers were working Sunday to free a sperm whale which was entangled in a fishing net near a tiny Mediterranean island. In a coast guard video, a diver can be seen slicing away some of the net in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Island archipelago.
The operation to set the sperm whale free was made particularly difficult “due to its state of agitation” that doesn’t allow continual intervention near the creature, the coast guard said in a statement. (Italian Coast Guard via AP)

Only three weeks ago, the coast guard freed another sperm whale that was tangled in fishing nets in the same area.

The coast guard indicated that the fishing lines were illegal, claiming to have seized 100 km (around 62 miles) of illegal fishing nets in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea so far this year.

In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian coast guard divers were working Sunday to free a sperm whale which was entangled in a fishing net near a tiny Mediterranean island. In a coast guard video, a diver can be seen slicing away some of the net in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Island archipelago. The operation to set the sperm whale free was made particularly difficult “due to its state of agitation” that doesn’t allow continual intervention near the creature, the coast guard said in a statement.

In this image taken from an Italian coast guard video a whale trapped in a fishnet in the waters near the Eolian islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian coast guard divers were working Sunday to free a sperm whale which was entangled in a fishing net near a tiny Mediterranean island. In a coast guard video, a diver can be seen slicing away some of the net in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Island archipelago. The operation to set the sperm whale free was made particularly difficult “due to its state of agitation” that doesn’t allow continual intervention near the creature, the coast guard said in a statement.

The coast guard said it has stepped up its efforts this year to combat illegal fishing, but some critics wish to see a similar effort in assisting the various migrant boats that can be stranded in the seas.

“We praise you for fighting illegal fishing in your seas and we invite you to use the same standards in defending human lives as you defend the whales’ right to survive,” a tweet by Mediterranea Saving Humans USA said in response to news of the sperm whale rescue.

On July 13, the crew of the Moonbird reconnaissance plane identified and photographed a small boat with about 60 passengers on board in the central Mediterranean, the Guardian reported. The boat appeared to be adrift with its engine failed.

After notifying authorities in Italy and Malta, Moonbird checked back and witnessed an Italian coast guard patrol boat seemingly ignore the migrant ship.

Italian authorities released a statement saying that they had received confirmation from another ship that it would carry out rescue operations and chose to not intervene.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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