MAER team disentangles young humpback whale off Chatham, MA

September 16, 2016

CCS MAER works to disentangle humpback whale off Chatham,  9/16/16. CCS image, NOAA permit #18786.

CCS MAER works to disentangle humpback whale off Chatham, 9/16/16. CCS image, NOAA permit #18786.

The Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response team disentangled a young humpback whale today off Chatham, MA.

Recreational boaters discovered the whale early in the afternoon, reported the sighting and stood by the whale until USCG Station Chatham arrived to stand by.

When the call came in the MAER team, joined by trainees from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was conducting a search on Stellwagen bank for entangled humpback whale Echo, reported by whale watchers yesterday afternoon.

The crew headed south to respond to the whale and was on scene in about one hour. There they found a relatively small whale anchored in fishing gear, with line through its mouth, attached to heavy gear on the sea floor. The whale was able to raise some of the gear to make it to the surface to breath. After a full assessment the team used a thirty foot pole and hook-shaped knife to make a single cut to a portion of the rope entering the mouth.

After about twenty minutes the whale began pulling against the remaining rope in its mouth, eventually pulling all entangling gear off. The whale then sped off at a high rate of speed – generally considered a good sign post-disentanglement.

The Center’s Humpback Whale Studies team will attempt to identify this individual for follow up.

Many thanks go to the mariners off Chatham and to the USCG for their help in this case.
Boaters 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 on VHF 16, and to stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.

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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, the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the Grace W. Allsop Foundation, the MALLRD Foundation, and contributions from CCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.