First mate of the charter vessel Wave Runner Adrian Colaprete is not in the business of saving whales, yet that did not stop him from diving underwater and cutting an endangered northern right whale free from its bonds. Colaprete and Captain Pat Foster were fishing 50 miles off the coast of Virginia when they sighted the whale. It was struggling to free itself from commercial fishing cables tied to two buoys.
“You could see the lines wrapped around his pectoral fins,” Colaprete told WVEC. “It was actually dugged into his skin a little bit.”
Northern right whales are the rarest of all large whales and one of the most critically endangered marine animals in the ocean. Experts estimate there to be only 450 right whales left in the North Atlantic. When Colaprete and Foster identified the animal as one of the most elusive they will ever see, the decision was made to attempt a rescue.
“Once we realized it was a right whale we knew we had to do something, if we were able to do something,” Colaprete said.
The angler first wanted to access the situation without getting too close. Although Colaprete is an experienced diver, the large size of the right whale posed a significant risk.
“Pat positioned the boat right in front of the whale, about 50 yards in front of him and I jumped in,” he said. “I started swimming towards it but I couldn’t see [the whale] because I was in front of it. Suddenly it came out of the gloom and it was almost like a submarine coming at me.”
Up close, Colaprete could see that the lines had caught in the whale’s mouth. In what the angler describes as a bizarre moment, the two made eye contact and then the whale moved so that he could better reach the rope. Colaprete initially thought freeing the whale would be a tricky proposition, but then he saw that the ropes that wrapped around whale’s tail could be easily cut.
“There’s so much pressure in those lines it’s a one cut deal, if I cut one line it would go through his fins,” he recalled.
The whale quickly shrugged off the lines and dived to deeper waters. Afterwards Colaprete said it was an amazing experience and although the danger was real, he would have never attempted the dive without Foster. Since the video of the rescue was released online, Colaprete has been receiving accolades for his good deeds. However, experts advise against approaching these large animals as they can be dangerous due simply to their large size.
Colaprete is currently a pro staff angler for the Wild Lyfe, which lists his favorite activities as big fish angling, diving, and hunting.
Video of the rescue can be seen below: