News from Around Banderas Bay | January 2009
|Entangled Humpback Whale Rescued in Banderas Bay|
Salvador Murguía - Vallarta Adventures
Puerto Vallarta - A successful attempt to save a Humpback Whale from a life-threatening entanglement brought together members of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR), Vallarta Adventures and the Instituto Technologico del Mar (ITMAR) on January 23rd, 2009. The rescue mission took place in the Northern part of the Bay of Banderas, near Destiladeras beach.
|On January 23, 2009, a successful attempt to save a Humpback Whale from a life-threatening entanglement in Banderas Bay brought together members of the Mexican Navy, Vallarta Adventures and the Instituto Technologico del Mar.|
The whale was first spotted around 2 pm on January 22nd in front of Four Seasons Resort (near Punta de Mita) by the Mexican Navy - Military Zone 8, led by LT Luis Vidal. This beautiful marine mammal was entangled in a 1/8" diameter "longline" and had hooks in the tail, pectoral fins and baleen (whalebone in upper jaws.)
A longline, also known as a simbra, is a commercial high resistance deep sea fishing line that uses hundreds, or even thousands, of baited hooks hanging from a single line that sometimes extends to over a mile in length.
After a quick evaluation by PROFEPA (the Mexican Environmental Enforcement Agency,) it was decided that in order to save the whale as soon as possible, a rescue network needed to be set up utilizing the assistance of local marine mammal experts from Vallarta Adventures and ITMAR.
Ricardo Rebolledo, a Marine Mammal Specialist at Vallarta Adventures stated: "Thursday we were alerted by PROFEPA, who told us that a whale was entangled by a large quantity of deep sea fishing line. The Authorities were coordinating the whale rescue operation and asked us to join the rescue effort. We arrived on location at 4:30 pm."
In a second evaluation, the situation appeared to be even more delicate than expected, since the whale happened to be a nursing mother. Fortunately, her baby was not wrapped up with her, but swimming freely. However, the lives of both animals were still at risk because the calf was still depending on his mother to help him through the critical stage of learning how to breathe.
At 6:20 pm, the operation was postponed due to timing (only one hour left til dusk,) and the rough waters combined with high tide, since all these factors made the operation too risky for both animals and humans. A buoy was attached to the whale, to accurately keep track of its position for returning rescuers the following day.
Thanks to the tracking buoy, no precious time was wasted and the whale was located quickly Friday morning by the Mexican Navy. She was swimming in front of Destiladeras beach. Vallarta Adventures and ITMAR, each supplying a boat, joined the Mexican Navy at 9 am.
While the Mexican Navy coordinated the movements of the whales with the two boats, three diving instructors and a marine mammal expert from Vallarta Adventures tried to get rid of most of the material that was handicapping the whale. The entire operation had to be handled with extreme care to avoid any stress on her calf.
On Friday at 1:30 pm, the mother was successfully disentangled and swam away free with her baby. This is the season's first successful disentanglement in Banderas Bay - and the third time that Vallarta Adventures has been successfully involved in a disentanglement operation since they started their Marine Mammal Rescue Program five years ago.
While the sight of a helpless, wounded or dying animal can be touchingly painful and provoke feelings of frustration or "the need to help," please be aware that in Mexico it is illegal for anyone without governmental authorization to handle a marine mammal.