Future of entangled female right whale looks brighter thanks to CCS team

On Thursday, April 12 the Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown responded to reports of an entangled right whale on Stellwagen Bank.

The right whale, identified as #1142 (Kleenex), is a mature female. She was found with a tight wrap of very thick rope around her upper jaw and over the top of her rostrum (blow hole). There was no trailing line, so the usual technique of attaching buoys to the entanglement to slow the whale and keep it at the surface could not be utilized; instead, responders used a cutting arrow fired from the deck of the rescue boat to damage the rope (see photo below). The now-weakened line should deteriorate and be shed naturally over time. Researchers will continue to monitor the whale and conduct further responses if necessary.

“This response would not have been possible without the support of the Northeastern Fisheries Science Center’s right whale aerial surveillance team,” explained Scott Landry, Director of the Entanglement Reshttps://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/psb/surveys/ponse team. “They spotted the whale during a routine survey and stayed on scene until we arrived. The whale was feeding well below the surface and from our perspective on the boat it was invisible for 90% of the time. Thankfully the survey plane was able to track the whale’s movements and let us know when and where she was about to surface.”

Sighting records indicate that the whale had been entangled in the same gear for at least three years; as a result, her physical condition is poor. “This is exactly the individual we are desperate to help,” Landry continued. “With only about 433 North Atlantic right whales left in the world, the loss of one breeding female and her future calves may have a devastating effect on the survival of the population.

Boaters are urged to report any entanglement sightings of whales, sea-turtles or sharks to the MAER team (1-800-900-3622) or the US Coast Guard on VHF 16, and to stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.

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Read more about the response in this article by Mary Ann Bragg at the Cape Cod Times.

Right whale #1142 taking a breath at the surface, just as the arrow approaches the entangling rope around her upper jaw. Center for Coastal Studies, NOAA permit #18786.

CCS disentanglement work is supported by a grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF). Support for the Marine Animal Response Team also comes from grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, the Pegasus Foundation, the Hermann Foundation, the Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation, and contributions from CCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.