Boaters Find Humpback Whale With Minutes To Live, Risk It All To Save It


The ocean serves many purposes for humans and animals like Humpback Whale. We use it for sport, vacationing, and even commercial use…but for animals, its sole function is a home. Yet, we continually neglect the fact that our trash continues to pollute the water.

For one whale, this carelessly forgotten notion ended up endangering its life. One group of boaters noticed something was very wrong as they approached the mammal, and what they did to help is truly remarkable…

Michael Fishbach takes a trip with his friends and family every year to focus on photographing various whale species in their natural habitat.

@GreatWhaleConservancy / Instagram

In fact, he is one of the co-founders of the Great Whale Conservancy, an organization that focuses on spreading awareness and advocating to protect these marine creatures.

@GreatWhaleConservancy / Instagram

One Valentine’s Day he was on a trip, on the Sea of Cortez, when he noticed an animal floating alongside his boat at the surface of the water.

Humpback Whale

Upon further investigation, Michael and crew realized that the animal was a humpback whale and she wasn’t showing signs of life. 

Suddenly the whale exhaled loudly through its blowhole. The sound indicated to them that the whale was in grave danger and needed help immediately.

Humpback Whale

Michael grabbed his snorkel and cautiously jumped into the water as seen below. When he swam up to the humpback whale, he saw that the creature was completely entangled in gillnet, restricting the use of her fins.

Great Whale Conservancy / YouTube

Her pectoral fins were tied to the side of her body and her dorsal fin was entangled. Her tail was even trapped in so much gear that it was weighing her down a full 15 feet under the surface!

Michael recalled making eye contact with the whale and thinking, “The sight of this large and beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming.”

He was able to successfully remove the netting from the dorsal fin, but felt it was too dangerous to continue helping the distressed whale. He only had a small knife and there was too much material to remove. 

Michael swam back to the boat to radio for help. He was told that
“perhaps” in an hour someone would be able to reach them, but the news sounded bleak.

Great Whale Conservancy

Michael knew that the whale might not make it if they waited for reinforcements to arrive. He looked to his crew and everyone knew what had to be done.

Great Whale Conservancy / Facebook

As quickly, and safely as possible, the crew began hauling and cutting the net systematically. They were careful, knowing the whale needed to have the ability to breathe in order to survive the rescue.

Great Whale Conservancy

The crew was able to release one pectoral fin, which gave the whale a sense of freedom. But then she began to pull away and swim off with the net still attached to it.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The crew held on tight as the whale pulled them about a half mile through the Sea of Cortez. Finally, the whale grew tired and the crew quickly began to work again.

Sea Shepherd

They knew if they couldn’t free her tail then their efforts would be useless. The crew didn’t give up as they continually hauled and cut the gillnet as the whale’s tail twisted and turned.

Great Whale Conservancy

They struggled with hauling and cutting the remaining net until finally, the tail was free! It was no longer weighted down with all of that fishing net.

The crew was overjoyed with their success as they cheered and embraced one another. Together they watched the whale swim free.

The whale swam about 500 feet from the boat when suddenly, she breached high into the air and out of the water. The crew knew she was using this display to express how thankful she really was.

They then decided to name her Valentina, since it was Valentine’s Day. The show went on for about an hour as the grateful whale stayed close to the surface and by its rescuers. 

A young child aboard said, “Mommy, I know what she’s doing. She’s showing us that she is all free.” Everyone who saw the whale that day would definitely agree. 

For Valentina, help was in the right place at the right time, other whales are not so lucky. It’s imperative that we are mindful of our man-made waste, as it oftentimes ends up in the ocean.