Humpback whale freed from life-threatening entanglement

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
PCCS Contact:
Cathrine Macort
+1-508-487-3622 x103
+1-508-808-9660
cmacort@coastalstudies.org

The response team pulls itself up the entanglement to assess the condition of the humpback whale anchored in gear off Mount Desert Island, Maine. PCCS Image taken under NOAA Permit #932-1905.

The response team pulls itself up the entanglement to assess the condition of the humpback whale anchored in gear off Mount Desert Island, Maine.
PCCS Image taken under NOAA Permit #932-1905.

The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) marine animal entanglement response (MAER) team, in partnership with the Maine Marine Patrol and the National Marine Fisheries, disentangled a humpback whale yesterday (April 11, 2012) offshore of Mount Desert Island, Maine. The whale was heavily entangled and had been anchored in place by gear for at least three days before being reported to authorities by local fishermen.

The disentanglement team was able to remove all the gear during a 4-hour operation, and although the whale was very thin and had extensive wounds from its entanglement, it swam off quickly, giving the team hope that it would soon begin feeding and start the healing process.

The whale was disentangled using tools and techniques developed by Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. In this case, the team attached large buoys to the entanglement to release the strain of the multiple sets of heavy gear beneath the whale. While the team could not fully raise this gear, the slack produced by the buoys allowed the whale to spend more time near the surface. Working from a small inflatable boat the team, which included responders from Maine Marine Patrol (MMP) and National Marine Fisheries, used a twenty-foot pole and hook-shaped knife to selectively cut away rope that was lodged in the mouth of the whale and wrapped around its flippers and flukes. Once a series of cuts were made, the weight of the gear began to pull the entanglement from the animal. Eventually the whale rolled violently, shaking loose all of the entangling gear.

Researchers and whale watch naturalists will keep an eye out for the whale over the coming season to monitor its progress. Scott Landry, director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team at PCCS noted that “while the condition of this whale was alarming, we have seen other whales in similar straits heal over. This whale has a much better prognosis now.”

Landry continued “None of this would have been possible without the dedicated collaborative response that included a small plane out of Provincetown, four MMP vessels and crew out of Mount Desert ports.”

PCCS right whale research and response operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Support for the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team also comes from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from PCCS members. To report an entangled animal in Southern New England, please call: 1800-900-3622.