Spanish divers saved a 12-meter-long humpback whale caught in an illegal drift net off the island of Mallorca in the Balearics.
One of the divers, Gigi Torras, said that the rescue was the “best birthday present ever” for her.
She also thought the huge animal had shown little respect for her.
She told Reuters, “It was like something out of this world. It was amazing, just amazing.”
Only three times have humpback whales been seen in the waters around the Balearic Islands.
A ship spotted the whale in trouble about three miles (4.83 km) from the island of Mallorca. The ship then called the marine rescue centre at the Palma de Mallorca Aquarium.
The whale was utterly caught in the red net and couldn’t even open its mouth.
After the first attempts to cut the net from a boat failed, divers from the Albatros and Skualo diving centres joined the effort. They jumped into the water and used their knives to cut the mesh for 45 minutes, which was dangerous.
Torras, the owner of the Albatros diving centre, said, “The first ten seconds, she was a little nervous, like there were 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 calmed down, and we started working from the front of her mouth backwards.”
Torras said, “We kept cutting and cutting, and she gave a little wiggle to get out of it.”
The animal stayed with the four divers for a while to regain strength. Before swimming away, she even made what looked like a “thank you” sign.
The United Nations made it illegal to use drift nets 30 years ago because they catch so many marine animals in addition to the fish they are meant to capture.