A young humpback whale that was rescued off the Goleta coastline in May was spotted over the weekend by scientists, who reported that injuries the whale sustained after getting caught in a fishing line seem to be healing up well.
In May, a team of rescuers freed the adolescent humpback whale that had suffered deep wounds and was gravely injured after it had become entangled in fishing line.
At the end of it was a 100-pound crab pot, a trap used by commercial fishermen to catch the crustaceans, and the drag from both had cut deeply into its body, causing a life-threatening injury.
The whale had become entangled in the line somewhere near Crescent City more than two weeks before, and had traveled more than 600 nautical miles to end up in the Santa Barbara Channel before being rescued by members of Whale Entanglement Team, a group of volunteers who perform a sort of search-and-rescue function for marine mammals.
On Saturday, several people spotted that same whale, alive and well and healing from its injuries.
Peggy Stap was out on a Marine Life Studies research vessel in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with several interns when they noticed a small whale with injuries to its tail and were able to confirm later that the whale was the same animal that was rescued by the Whale Entanglement Team near Goleta.
"When we first spotted this whale I just knew it had to be the same whale we disentangled," Stap said.
Later after comparing photos to those taken several months earlier, they were able to positively identify it.
One of the interns who helped spot the whale was Maya Hoffman, a high school student from the Denver School of the Arts in Colorado, who said she was thrilled to be part of the sighting.
Hoffman had been tasked with recording the number of breaths the whale took and how long it stayed under the surface between each breath.
"It was a wonderful experience to see how the humpback was doing — living, healing and thriving, all thanks to W.E.T.," she said.
The whale was spotted Saturday just 232 yards from where the W.E.T. team first arrived to the report of the injured whale in April.
There is a great chance that sightings of this humpback will continue and that Marine Life Studies will be able to continue to monitor its healing process, Stap said.
"The last time I saw this whale is when we watched it swim free after disentangling it on May 14 in the Santa Barbara Channel," she said. "To know it swam all the way from there back to Monterey Bay is so amazing," adding that giving a whale listed on the endangered list a second chance "is special indeed."