Humpback whale freed from life-threatening entanglement

On Sunday April 26 the Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown released a humpback whale from a life-threatening entanglement.

The whale was reported to the MAER hotline by commercial fishermen. Center responders, with assistance from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) aerial survey team, searched for and eventually relocated the whale just off Race Point, Provincetown.

MAER team established a work line to the entanglement using a thrown grappling hook

MAER team established a work line to the entanglement using a thrown grappling hook

The likely young humpback whale had an extremely tight collar of very heavy rope around the girth of its body and was in very poor condition indicating it had been entangled for weeks or months. With assistance from the NEFSC, the MAER team was able to establish a work line to the entanglement using a thrown grappling hook. The workline allowed the team to add large buoys to slow the whale and use a thirty-foot pole to add a hooked knife attached to a line. As the team was towed in a small inflatable boat by the whale using this rope, the knife cut through the inch and a half entangling rope.

Responders us a hooked knife on a thirty-foot pole to cut through the 1.5" line.

Responders us a hooked knife on a thirty-foot pole to cut through the 1.5″ line.

While the whale is free of its entanglement the team is cautiously optimistic about its prognosis. The whale was quite thin and had numerous, active wounds, likely caused by the collar of rope shifting as the whale lost weight over time. The CCS Humpback Whale Studies team is working on identifying the whale and will monitor its condition over time as possible.

The Center wishes to thank the NEFSC for their valuable assistance with this case. It would also like to thank Doug Coughran from Western Australia’s Department of Environment and Conservation for joining the team for this difficult operation. Coughran had just attended a workshop hosted by CCS and International Whaling Commission on best practices during entanglement response.

Mariners are urged to report any entanglement sightings of whales, sea-turtles and other marine animals to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Hotline (1-800-900-3622) or the US Coast Guard, and to stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.

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, and the following foundations: Pegasus Foundation, Hermann Foundation,  Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation, Vetlesen Foundation; Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation; Mallrd Foundation; Allsop Foundation; Veronika Crawford Foundation; DJ & T Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation; and contributions from CCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.