Sometimes, everyday people have the chance to be heroes. That was the case for two sailing buddies who spotted something unusual while boating in Morro Jable, off the coast of Spain. According to a Facebook post, Caesar Espino and his partner were enjoying a typical day out on the water when they noticed a whale in serious trouble – she had a bouy caught around her air outlet.

The buoy was typical of palangre fishing, a type of long-line fishing that is mostly illegal. The mechanism includes several lines branching that have thousands of barbed, baited hooks. According to the Humane Society of the United States, longliners usually target large fish such as tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass, but the baited hooks also attract and result in the deaths or bycatch of a wide variety of other animals, including sea turtles, marine mammals, seabirds. Some estimates claim that longlines kill more than 40,000 sea turtles, 300,000 seabirds, thousands of marine mammals and millions of sharks each year.

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Espino jumped into the water to reach the whale without hesitation. According to the post, the whale was hooked both in the mouth and on the tail, preventing her from being able to swim.

Espino worked on the hooks for an hour to free the whale from what would have surely been a painful death, but in the end, it was certainly worth the effort to see her swim off safely!