Humpback whale entangled in ropes near remote Scottish island feared dead

LONDON (AP) — A humpback whale entangled in ropes near a remote Scottish island was feared dead on Friday, rescuers said.

Expert divers said the whale may have drowned after it became weakened from struggling with the creel lines, which are attached to cages on the seabed used to catch lobsters and crabs.

"It seems that the whale is actually dragging lots of creel pots behind it because it has moved from one bay to another," said Alex Knight, from British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

"My worry is that obviously it is going to get very, very tired dragging these creel pots, and if it drags them into deeper water there is a possibility it could be pulled down and actually drown," he said.

Scottish National Heritage, which is coordinating the rescue operation, said a team of experts rushed to the site to free the whale, but could not find it on Friday. Officials were still trying to ascertain whether the animal managed to swim away or had sunk to the bottom of the sea.

The humpback was first sighted near the Shetland coast in northeast Scotland early Thursday, with its tail caught in the lines attached to buoys. It is estimated to be around 40 feet (12 meters) long and to weigh 30 tons (33 short tons).

One or two humpback whales are seen off the Shetland coast each year.