Underwater rescue: Spanish divers free a whale trapped in an illegal fishing net

In a gripping underwater rescue, divers from Spain have freed a 12-meter-long humpback whale entangled in an illegal driftnet off the Balearic island of Mallorca.

One of the divers, 32-year-old marine biologist Gigi Torras, said last Friday’s rescue and a small gesture of appreciation from the giant mammal was also a birthday present for her – the “best of all”. time” in his words.

“It was like out of this world, it was amazing, just amazing,” she told Reuters on Tuesday. It was only the third time a humpback whale had been sighted in the Balearic Islands.

The weakened whale had been spotted by a vessel about five kilometers off the east coast of Mallorca, prompting the Palma de Mallorca Aquarium marine rescue center to take action.

They found the whale completely trapped in the red fishing net so it couldn’t even open its mouth.

WATCH | Diver describes being underwater next to the whale, working to free it:

“Like stepping into a completely different dimension”

Marine biologist and diver Gigi Torras describes the feeling of being underwater next to a trapped humpback whale, working with colleagues to cut through the tangled fishing nets that have trapped the 12-metre-long mammal.

After initial attempts to cut a boat’s net failed, divers from Albatros and Skualo dive centers joined the effort and dove into the sea to remove the net with their knives in a daring operation to 45 minutes.

“The first ten seconds she got a little nervous, you know, like bubbles all over the place, but then I don’t know, call me crazy, but I think she knew we were there to help her and she just relaxed and we started working from the front of her mouth upside down,” Albatros owner Torras said.

“We kept chopping and chopping and she kind of gave a little push to get herself out of it,” Torras said, adding that the mammal then stayed a bit to regain strength with the four divers and took off. even gave what seemed like “a little nod of thanks” before bathing.

The humpback whale and trapped divers are seen in the waters off Mallorca, during the 45-minute effort to cut a fishing net from the mammal. (NGO Xaloc/Hector Gago/Reuters)

Driftnets are nicknamed “walls of death” for the amount of other marine species they catch in addition to the fish they are supposed to catch. They were banned by the United Nations 30 years ago.