Provincetown team frees badly entangled/injured humpback calf

Thursday, October 25, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

PCCS Contact:

Cathrine Macort
+1-508-487-3622 x103
+1-508-808-9660
cmacort@coastalstudies.org

Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies works to free entangled humpback calf. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905 with authority of the ESA.

Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies works to free entangled humpback calf. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905 with authority of the ESA.

Earlier today the Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) freed a humpback whale calf from a potentially deadly entanglement in waters off Gloucester.

The animal, which has been identified as the still dependent calf of the humpback whale named Tornado, was first reported by naturalists aboard the Cape Ann Whale Watch on Tuesday. MAER, the US Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service responded immediately, but despite an extensive search of the area they were unable to relocate the whale.

This morning the PCCS aerial survey team and MAER conducted a survey of the general area where the whale was last seen and spotted the mother/calf pair off the northern tip of Stellwagen Bank, approximately 20 miles east of Gloucester. The MAER team was close by and quickly conducted an assessment. The calf was towing buoys and more than 500 feet of line that was wrapped around its left flipper. After several hours of intense effort the MAER team, working from a small inflatable boat, was able to remove all the gear from the animal.

“This was a remarkably difficult disentanglement” said Scott Landry, Director of the MAER program. “The calf was travelling very fast in an attempt to keep up with its mother, so we had to work while being towed at high speed”. Despite its speed and mobility, the calf suffered extensive lacerations across its body as a result of the entanglement. At last sighting the pair were swimming calmly together.

This is the ninth successful whale disentanglement operation by the MAER team this year, and it comes just two days after the rescue of an entangled leatherback turtle in Cape Cod Bay– the fourteenth this summer. “This was one of the busiest entanglement seasons to date. These disentanglements would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of the US Coast Guard, the Harbor Masters of Chatham, Dennis, Falmouth, Provincetown, Yarmouth and elsewhere, whale watch boats, fishermen and recreational boaters,” noted Landry. “We are so grateful for their support”.

Mariners are reminded to quickly 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 stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.

PCCS 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 a number of private foundations and contributions from PCCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.

The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting marine mammals and ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine through applied research and education.