Rescuing a whale tangled in miles of fishing line is no easy feat.  Entanglement is so common that it’s estimated that 75 percent of whales have scars and gashes from heavy fishing nets and ropes. Some carry tangled fishing gear with them for years afterward.

Entanglement rescue task forces of marine biologists and conservationists are trained to handle tangled whales. Yet diving in the water with the largest mammals on earth isn’t always a safe option, and entanglement rescues are never for the faint of heart. A humpback, for instance, can reach 50+ feet in length and weigh more than 500 people. One of many risks is that the rescuer will get trapped in the line entangling the whale, which is especially life-threatening if the whale picks that moment to dive. Even cutting nets from a boat on the surface is as dangerous for the rescuers as it is for the whales.

Photo of one of the divers working on the crab pot lines that gripped the female humpback whale near the Farallon Islands off the coast of California. The humpback seemed to nuzzle her rescuers in thanks after they untangled her from the ropes.

The most well-known entanglement rescue is probably of the female humpback whale who seemed to individually thank the four divers who freed her from miles of crab line ropes off the coast of San Francisco, California (photo of rescue,  left).

We thought Global Animal readers might be interested in seeing film footage of an actual entanglement rescue. The video below captures one such heart-pounding mission. Members of the Mexican navy teamed with mammal experts to free the entangled whale. It’s a thrilling and unforgettable look at what it takes to save a gentle giant from human hazard. Bravo to these heroes! — Global Animal