When fisherman Ivan Iskenderian set off for a day on the water with friends in Australia's Middle Harbour in Sydney, he didn't expect to be met by a 45-foot (12-metre) southern right whale. As the ocean giant approached their boat, the crew noticed something was wrong: the whale had a plastic bag and fishing line wrapped around its mouth. 

Several other boaters had also stopped to see if they could help the distressed animal. "It kept lifting its head up," Iskenderian recalls. "It came right up to us, so I reached out, and after a couple of tries, was able to take [the line] off." The event was caught on camera by fellow fisherman Ron Kovacs, who was also in the harbour. 

Like many large whale species, southern right whales are filter feeders, who rely on their bristle-like baleen plates – which can reach 8 feet (2.5 metres) in length – to collect krill and other zooplankton as they skim the water. Because of this, anything wrapped around the mouth can be especially hazardous. 

"Afterwards it played around us for a while," says Iskenderian. "It seemed quite happy about it."

Top header image: Adam/Flickr