The humpback whale which was spotted off Cala Millor trapped in an illegal drift fishing net before being freed last Friday has sadly died.
The 12-metre, 25-ton whale that was sighted in Mallorca died off the coast of the Valencian municipality of Tavernes de la Valldigna, where it arrived “extremely weak” and with several cuts to its dorsal fin.
The size of the whale and its proximity to the coast complicated the rescue operation on Thursday to tow it out to the open sea, as the animal had several wounds on its dorsal fin and was unable to continue swimming.
“Given its serious condition and size, the chances of rescue were nil. We would cause more injuries and complicate its condition and, possibly, it would reappear on the sand,” explained José Luis Crespo, head of Conservation at the Oceanogràfic Foundation.
The rescue made international news when one of the divers who intially cut the whale free from the net in Mallorca, 32-year-old marine biologist Gigi Torras, said last Friday’s rescue and a little gesture of appreciation from the giant mammal were a birthday present for her – the ‘best ever’ in her words.
“It was like out of this world, it was incredible, just incredible,“ she told Reuters. It was only the third time that a humpback has been seen around the Balearics.
The weakened whale had been spotted by a ship about three miles (4.83 km) off the eastern coast of Mallorca, prompting Palma’s Aquarium marine rescue centre into action.
They discovered the whale completely trapped in the red fishnet so it could not even open its mouth. After initial attempts to cut the net from a boat failed, divers from Albatros and Skualo diving centres joined the effort and plunged into the sea to remove the mesh with their knives in a daring 45-minute operation.
Nicknamed “walls of death” for the quantity of other sea life they catch in addition to the fish they are set for, drift nets were banned by the United Nations 30 years ago.
The whale’s death will come as a severe blow to all of the people who were involved in the Mallorcan rescue operation.