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Humpback whale 'thanks' rescuers who saved it from dying tangled in fishing nets

A whale comes out of the water

Incredible turnaround… the moment a humpback whale ‘thanks’ rescuers who saved her from dying entangled in fishing nets

A humpback whale that was freed from near-certain death by three men off the coast of California has returned the favor to its rescuers with a jaw-dropping spectacle of breaching and diving.

The incredible hour-long performance was filmed moments after the creature was freed from fishing nets.

When the boat encountered the whale, it was stuck with its tail and fins hopelessly entangled in the nets.

Scroll down to watch the video

Helping hand: Michael Fishbach and his two friends help cut the helpless humpback whale’s net

Whale watchers first thought the humpback whale was already dead as it floated above the water.

But then he let out a loud breath through his blowhole.

Michael Fishbach decided the best thing to do was to get in the water and dive alongside the stricken whale.

He said: “As I swam alongside the animal, our eyes met.

“There were no words we could share, but I wanted to let the whale know we were there to help.

“It took some effort to stay focused given the great emotion at the time.

“The sight of this large, beautiful creature trapped and so close to death was almost overwhelming.

Danger: The huge creature could have easily overturned the boat, but rescuers were determined to cut the nets

“I have to admit I was a bit scared because I knew the whale was scared and tired, but it could still kill me with one panicked motion.”

He said the whale’s tail was so tangled that it weighed down about 15 feet.

Michael got back on the boat and tried to cut the fillet off the whale with a small knife.

The trio managed to free one of the fins but the whale sensed the freedom and swam away, dragging the boat down with it.

But eventually it surfaced and more net was cut.

After about an hour of work, the whale was totally free.

They pulled the remaining fishing net onto the boat and watched as the whale gave a dramatic show of freedom.

A whale comes out of the water

Spectacular: The huge whale shows its splendor by jumping out of the water

For the next hour, they watched the whale breach about 40 times and then dive, wagging its tail above the water.

Michael said: “We all thought it was at least a show of pure joy, if not of thanks.

“We were all proud and delighted to have saved this fantastic young life.

“It was an incredible experience that none of us will ever forget.”

In the video, a little girl can be heard saying, “I know what she’s doing. She shows us that she is free.

Her mother replies, “I think she’s showing us a thank you dance.”

Michael spends two months each winter photographing whales in the Sea of ​​Cortez.

He is the co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy’s (GWC) Blue Whale Protection Program, set up to protect whales along the California coast from injury and death from ship strikes.

A whale comes out of the water

Thank you: The whale performed about 40 breaches and tail swipes within an hour of being released.

A whale comes out of the water

The entire rescue was filmed off the coast of California

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