Lifestyle & Human Interest

Brave Divers Free Trapped Humpback Whale from Illegal Fishing Net: 'It Was Incredible'


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

Like many people, Gigi Torras spent her birthday this year doing something she loved. Unlike many people, Torras is a diver and marine biologist, and on her special day she got to celebrate by helping save a humpback whale.

Reports of a struggling whale wrapped up in an illegal drift net off the Balearic island of Mallorca came in, and a rescue team was assembled, according to RNZ.

Though these kinds of nets were banned decades ago, they still pop up from time to time — illustrating quite clearly why they have been banned.

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Torras was part of the team of local divers assembled to investigate the whale’s situation, and they set out to find the 39-foot-long whale with the net wrapped around its mouth, keeping it firmly shut.

First, the team attempted to free the whale from their boat, but that proved unsuccessful. There was only one thing left to do, but it was certainly more dangerous: The rescuers would have to get into the water with the giant whale and work carefully to cut the net free.

“The first ten seconds she got a bit nervous, you know, like bubbles everywhere, 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 backwards,” Torras told Reuters, according to EuroNews.

It took a good 45 minutes as the divers worked with their knives, but eventually the last tie was severed, and the whale shook off its burden.

“We kept cutting and cutting, and she kind of gave a little wiggle to get herself out of it,” Torras said.

The whale paused a while, perhaps to regain its strength. Torras is sure that it understood the situation and even expressed gratitude with “a little thank you sign” before departing.

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“It was like out of this world; it was incredible, just incredible,” she said.

The rescue made the rounds on social media, propelling Torras to internet fame. Many people expressed their own little thank you signs, commenting on the posts to commend her actions and the actions of the others who intervened and saved the humpback whale.

“I have no words to explain what this last week has been,” Torras posted. “Above all THANK YOU all for the birthday wishes! I have been overwhelmed by all the love from everyone and the support on our whale rescue mission (all details coming up). I could not have asked for a more significantly special and magical day.

“THANK YOU TAHNK YOU THANK YOU all for the birthday love!”

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