Australian Fishing Trip Becomes a Right Whale Rescue

The rare marine mammal swam up to a fishing boat in a Sydney harbor.
Aug 14, 2015·
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

Right whales are so rare worldwide that the fate of an individual animal may be important to the survival of the species.

So it's a welcome bit of news that this encounter between a Southern right whale and a group of young men fishing in a harbor near Sydney turned out so well.

According to this news video, one of the men, Ivan Iskenderian, saw that the whale's snout was entangled in plastic debris. When the whale poked its head up close to the boat, Iskenderian had the presence of mind to calmly grab and tug the grocery bag and fishing line away. Iskenderian and his friends were rewarded as the freed creature breeched and rolled in the water shipside, giving them a wonderful display of whaleness before presumably swimming off.

Ocean plastic debris—such as discarded fishing nets and line, broken bits of larger objects, and grocery bags—is arguably the most severe pollution problem facing marine wildlife. A recent study estimated that there are five grocery bags full of plastic trash in the ocean for every foot of coastline in the world. Scientists have estimated that thousands of ocean animals have had encounters with marine plastic trash, many of them fatal—and around 17 percent of them are endangered species including Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles.

In February, state and federal wildlife crews freed a humpback whale tangled in plastic fishing line in Hawaii.