Dave Beezer is the longtime captain of the Condor Express, Santa Barbara’s premier whale-watching boat. He is also one of a handful of people in California who are federally trained and certified to disentangle large cetaceans when they get wrapped up in marine debris.
Untangling a whale is difficult and dangerous, so Beezer and his team of volunteers approach each case cautiously. Before they make their cuts, they follow the whale and, with the help of a drone, study the configuration of the tangle.
The whales are stressed and scared, Beezer explained, and try to evade the rescuers. Once a plan is in place, they launch an inflatable boat from a ‘mothership’ and use carbon-fiber poles fixed with especially designed knives to snip the lines. Up to a few dozen people may be involved. Not every rescue attempt is successful, but many are, and then the reward is great. “These are highly intelligent mammals dying a slow, painful death,” said Beezer. “It’s only right we try to help them.”
Someday soon, Beezer hopes to transition to saving whales full-time, even forming a rapid response nonprofit with a boat on a trailer, always at the ready.