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Biologists search for sperm whale entangled in potentially fatal fishing net off of Spain 

The race is on to save a sperm whale after it was found entangled in an abandoned fishing net off the coast of Spain. 

Distressing images show the large mammal completely caught up in the potentially fatal net in waters in the Strait of Gibraltar.

The entire length of the whale’s body from its head to its tail had become entangled, preventing it from being able to swim properly.

It comes just days after heartbreaking footage showed another sperm whale caught in fishing nets off the Italian coast. 

The whale off Spain was first spotted by marine conservation group  Nereide Association, which raised the alarm to authorities last week.   

The group said they were unable to immediately help the whale due to a lack of resources on board and adverse weather conditions.  

Images taken by underwater photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero showing the 33ft-long sperm whale caught in the net off the Spanish southern coast were sent to the Spanish Ministry of the Environment.

A mission to free the animal from the net was launched by Spanish environmental authorities, who are working alongside marine biologists to track the animal down. 

Eva Carpinelli, president of Spain’s Nereide Association, said the sperm whale was ‘completely trapped in a fishing net covered from its head including the mouth to its tail’.

She said the fishing net made it difficult for the animal to swim, and the whale’s blowhole which allows it to breathe air seemed ‘weak’.

‘Due to a lack of resources on board the search vessel and sudden adverse weather conditions at sea, we had to return to the coastline and were unable to help the sperm whale,’ Ms Carpinelli told the Gibraltar Chronicle.

‘We felt frustrated at not being able to help the animal or stay with it to check its vitals.’

Just days ago, separate images emerged showing a giant sperm whale caught in a fishing net off the Italian coast near a tiny Mediterranean island. 

In a coast guard video, a diver can be seen slicing away some of the net in the waters surrounding the Aeolian Islands archipelago. 

Boaters on Saturday had spotted the struggling sperm whale in that stretch of the Tyrrhenian Sea off Italy’s west coast and contacted the coast guard.

The operation to free the sperm whale was particularly difficult ‘due to its state of agitation’ that didn’t allow for continual intervention near the whale, the coast guard said Sunday. 

Three weeks ago, the Italian coast guard freed another sperm whale ensnared in a fishing net, also in the sea off the Aeolian Islands. 

Since the start of the year, the coast guard has sequestered illegal fishing nets totalling more than a 62 miles in length.

The coast guard says it has stepped up its efforts this year to combat illegal fishing. 

‘Bycatch’ is the term given to the accidental capture of marine life in fishing gear. 

It is a global issue, affecting many different species including seals, turtles and sea birds.

It’s estimated that at least 300,000 cetaceans (aquatic mammals) are caught in this way every year, according to The International Whaling Commission.  

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