Entangled humpback whale caught in fishing rope dramatically freed by lifeboat volunteers

A team of lifeboat volunteers freed a humpback whale after it became entangled in fishing ropes off the coast of Cornwall.

The distressed mammal was discovered wrapped up in crab or lobster pot lines in Mount’s Bay, near the port of Newlyn, by wildlife-watching boat company Marine Discovery Penzance on Sunday.

Quickly, several other boat trip operators arrived in a bid to help the whale, named “Ivy”, before the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) attended to cut the whale free from the ropes.

The humpback whale had been spotted several times off the coast in recent weeks before becoming tangled in fishing rope (The Dolphin Lady)
The humpback whale had been spotted several times off the coast in recent weeks before becoming tangled in fishing rope (The Dolphin Lady)

The dramatic rescue was caught on camera by an amateur photographer who goes dolphin spotting in her spare time.

The woman, a language teacher known on social media as ‘The Dolphin Lady’, travelled to Cornwall specifically to see Ivy after learning that the whale had been spotted off the south coast.

“I still can’t believe what we witnessed,” she said of the rescue.

A man watching the rescue with The Dolphin Lady quipped that the whale waved goodbye as it flapped its tail while swimming away.

Andy Cowie, owner of boat trip company Atlantic Adventures, was among the skippers to head out to the whale after seeing a post on social media.

Mr Cowie, who is also a member of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, told The Independent how it had become tied up in ropes used to connect crab and lobster pots to buoys.

“It had tried to free itself but had become more wrapped up in the ropes,” Mr Cowie said.

“The whale also had a wound and was clearly quite distressed.”

He said the team of skippers monitored the whale before the RNLI made a decision to cut it free.

The whale had been seen in recent weeks along the coast, said Mr Cowie, who believed its presence could be down to the impact of global warming.

According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, there were at least 30 sightings of humpback whales recorded in the area in 2023/24.

In February, hundreds of people headed to Falmouth after three were spotted off the coast. Last month, there was another sighting near Porthleven.

Mr Cowie said: “Humpbacks migrate further south at this time of year to breed, and the thought is that because of global warming its food source is reduced further north so they haven’t been able to build up the fat stocks to be able to travel further south - and so stop around our coast line to feed before moving on south."

Mr Cowie said dangers posed to whales in the region included fishing trawlers and lost nets.

He added: “Today highlighted the dangers our marine wildlife faces from human activity.

“We hope and pray Ivy recovers from this ordeal.”