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The plight of an entangled baby whale off Orange County has sparked an urgent multi-agency rescue effort, highlighting again the perils that ocean debris poses to marine mammals and other wildlife.

The baby gray whale has a rope around its mouth and trailing in the water behind it. That’s prompted a team of ocean animal experts from Dana Point to Monterey to closely follow the whale, hoping to get close enough to extricate it.

As the calf grows, the rope could tighten around it, potentially tearing off skin or breaking limbs. The consequences could be deadly.

“Unfortunately, with most of these entanglements, if the whale can’t get it off and we can’t get it off,” said Justin Viezbicke, California Stranding Network coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, “they ultimately lead up to death.”

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