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Morro Bay fishermen capture dramatic whale rescue on video

Eel fisherman Sam Synstelien climbs on the back of a humpback whale while trying to cut it free from a rope in Morro Bay in September.
Eel fisherman Sam Synstelien climbs on the back of a humpback whale while trying to cut it free from a rope in Morro Bay in September.

A pair of Morro Bay eel fisherman didn’t seem to mind putting life and limb at risk to save a distressed humpback whale last month — and they caught the dramatic rescue on video.

In a story reported this week by SFGATE, Nicholas Taron and Sam Synstelien were headed back into Morro Bay aboard their boat Persistence in September when they noticed a whale tangled in rope attached to a buoy.

They initially reported it to the U.S. Coast Guard, but they said they wouldn’t be able to respond for hours, according to SFGATE.

That’s when the two took action.

In video posted to the Instagram page of their business, Native Pacific Fisheries, Synstelien appears on the bow of the boat and jumps into the water near the whale. He climbed onto the back of the creature as it struggled, spouting and slamming its tail against the boat.

Synstelien struggles momentarily before sliding off the whale and raising his hands triumphantly after cutting the rope.

Taron then lets out a scream of excitement from aboard the vessel as the whale swims away. It took the pair three attempts to free the whale, according to subsequent Instagram posts.

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“Saving Humanity,” they posted with the Instagram video. “We followed this entangled humpback whale around for an hour. Cut an entangled buoy from her back but she was still caught. With no other options F/V Persistence getting the job done.”

While it may have been a heroic effort, officials cautioned against taking action into your own hands in such a situation.

“Although we appreciate and share the concern of the fishermen, we want to discourage this kind of response from the public,” the Coast Guard told SFGATE. “Safety of life at sea is our top priority and this incident could have gone in a completely different direction.”

What’s it like to swim with whales? Erik Jones of San Luis Obispo got up close and personal with humpback whales in Pismo Beach on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017.

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