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Mariners went all out to help whales
2021-07-10 
Fishermen help move a melon-headed whale to a fish farm in Linhai, Zhejiang province, on Wednesday. CHEN ZHONGQIU/FOR CHINA DAILY

For fishermen and sailors in the seaside town of Shangpan in Linhai, Zhejiang province, where recently 12 stranded whales were found, it is not unusual to spot whales or dolphins in the sea – they would always call them haizi, or "son of the ocean".

"And if the local fishermen spot such intelligent sea creatures in need, they will help them without hesitation and rescue them from danger," said Wu Xinjun, deputy Party secretary of Shangpan.

In the recent rescue of melon-headed whales, they tried their best to help.

A 37-second video of a young man sleeping in the water holding a whale soon went viral online, with netizens hailing his relentless efforts and caring heart in trying to keep the whale alive.

"The melon-headed whale knew I was trying to save it and would be more cooperative and wouldn't move," said Lu Wenhui, a 21-year-old diver from Hangzhou Changqiao Polar Ocean Park, who held up the whale's head at a fish farm in Linhai so it could breathe easily.

Lu had been soaked in the water for 10 hours by 4 am Wednesday after coming to Linhai for the rescue work on Tuesday, when the stranded whales were first spotted.

"Whales are mammals and need to breathe in air – that's why I had to hold its head, to ensure it could breathe smoothly the whole time," Lu said.

The stranded whales, after the bumping and jostling of being transported, were worn out when they arrived at the fish farm and might have drowned if they were left unattended.

On Tuesday, 12 stranded melon-headed whales had been found in shallow coastal waters in Linhai, Zhejiang province.

"Three whales were already dead when we found them," said He Xianqing, deputy head of the Taizhou Ocean and Fishery Law Enforcement Team, adding that two died when being released back into the sea.

By 4 pm Thursday, six melon-headed whales had been returned to the sea.

The remaining whale, which is still in poor physical condition, is being treated with the greatest care, including helping it to breathe by holding up its head.

"We are not certain whether the whale in poor condition has other hidden illnesses. We are not completely sure that we can save it, because there is little research on melon-headed whales in China," He said.

The six whales released into the sea could still possibly become stranded again, He said.

"The reason why the whales were stranded is still not clear. And these stranded whales were returned to the ocean because they are not adapted to artificial breeding environments on land."

"The main principle in rescuing these whales, which come from nature, is to return them to the ocean, because they are not very suited to an artificial breeding environment."

Cai Jingwen contributed to this story.

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