It's a shocking image: a California gray whale dragging 50 feet of netting filled with dead sea animals for nearly a week.
The gray whale, dubbed "Bart," was spotted Friday off the coast of Dana Point Harbor, Calif., tangled in a huge fishing net, NBC reports.
With permission from the National Marine Fisheries Services, Dave Anderson, who works with DolphinSafari.com, attached a buoy to the whale Friday evening to monitor it overnight as a rescue team was assembled.
Anderson said that the team found a "whole ecosystem" inside the netting, including a sea lion, a 5-foot leopard shark, two angel sharks and various spider crabs, fish and rays, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As they followed the whale out to sea, volunteers spent seven hours Saturday carefully cutting the nylon netting without hurting the mammal. With nighttime and a storm approaching, the rescue team was fighting against time.
"This whale was doing everything it could just to breathe," Anderson told the Orange County Register. "But there was no way to feed itself."
Suddently, a line snapped, and the buoys disappeared.
"Those buoys just went under the water all of a sudden," Anderson told NBC. "And when they went under the water, I mean, it was like a scene from 'Jaws.'"
The whale was free, and volunteers were thrilled.
“All the staff was really emotional at the end of the rescue because usually the whale does not make it in this type of situation,” Dana Friedman, a local volunteer, told the Laguna Beach Independent. “It is hard for me to find the words to express how I feel right now.”
Anderson added to the Independent, “This was a snapshot into what is going on in the oceans all over the world. Unfortunately, thousands of marine animals die every day from similar circumstances.”