In the third installment in the Free Willy series, Jesse (Jason James Richter), the once-troubled youth whose life was changed by his friendship with the killer whale Willy, is spending the summer on board a ship assisting a group a whale researchers, including his old friend Randolph (August Schellenberg), and Drew (Annie Corley), an oceanographer. Jesse once used a harmonica to communicate with Willy, and when he plays his mouth harp through the ship's underwater sound system, he is able to find his old friend, who is now raising a family of his own. As Jesse, Randolph, and Drew are out to study and assist the whales, a ten-year-old boy named Max (Vincent Berry) is accompanying his father John Wesley (Patrick Kilpatrick) on the fishing boat that John helps to run. Max soon discovers that John and the crew are not fishing for salmon, as he believed, but killer whales, which is illegal, but very profitable, as whale meat fetches $200 a pound on the black market. Jesse meets Max on shore, and when Jesse learns what John and his crew are up to, he tries to teach Max that while his father may not be a bad man, he's doing a very bad thing in killing the whales, who are intelligent, compassionate, and deserve the right to live; Jesse also acts to save Willy and his family from John and his fellow poachers. As in Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, Free Willy 3: The Rescue used mechanical and animated whales rather than flesh-and-blood aquatic mammals.