Provincetown team frees entangled humpback whale – 11th this record-breaking season

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

PCCS Contact:

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

Lines embedded in fluke of young humpback whale. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905.

Lines embedded in fluke of young humpback whale. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905.

Earlier today the Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) disentangled a young humpback whale in waters just outside Cape Cod Bay. This is the eleventh whale rescued by the team in 2012, making this the most successful year for disentanglement operations since the program was initiated in 1984.

Responding to a report from a member of the public, the team found the young humpback with multiple wraps of line wound tightly around its fluke and embedded in its flesh.

Working from a small inflatable vessel, the responders used grappling hooks to gain purchase on the entanglement then attached large buoys to the lines to slow the animal and keep it close to the surface. A fixed knife on the end of a long pole was then used to make several strategic cuts in the line and the drag created by the buoys pulled the entanglement from the whale. Though badly wounded, the whale swam off gear-free.

“Despite the horrific injuries this animal sustained, it stands a far better chance of survival now that it is able to move freely” said Lisa Sette of the MAER program.

The timing of this entanglement was fortunate; the R/V Ibis, the vessel utilized by the MAER team for disentanglement operations, is scheduled to be hauled out for extensive and much needed repairs in the next few days.

PCCS Marine Entanglement Response Team works to free entangled humpback whale. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905.

PCCS Marine Entanglement Response Team works to free entangled humpback whale. PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905.

“The tremendous wear and tear over the last few seasons and during this unusually busy year in particular has taken a heavy toll on the boat” explained Scott Landry, director of the MAER program. “In order to safely continue our work we have to replace the padded sponsons that keep her afloat and protect both the animals and our crew. It’s a huge, expensive job, but we can’t put it off any longer.”

The Center received a generous emergency grant from the Island Foundation to help offset much of the cost of repairs, but more funds are needed to complete the work. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the PCCS website for more information about the MAER team and their recent whale and turtle rescues, and help with the cost of repairs to the R/V IBIS.

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, the Pegasus Foundation, the Hermann Foundation, the Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation, 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.