May 26, 2016
This afternoon the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team disentangled a young humpback whale in Cape Cod Bay off Provincetown.
The entanglement was reported to the Provincetown Harbormaster by beachgoers at Herring Cove who saw the animal thrashing and rolling at the surface. Once the Harbormaster verified the report he radioed a local commercial fishing vessel Donna Marie to stand by the whale until the US Coast Guard (USCG) from Station Provincetown was able to relieve them; the USCG then stood by until the MAER team aboard the CCS response vessel IBIS, travelling from a survey cruise off Chatham, arrived on scene.
The whale was found to have three wraps of line around base of its flukes; it was free-swimming, so had likely torn the entanglement from a larger fishing gear set.
Using a grappling hook, the responders were able to establish a work line to the entanglement. They then attached several large buoys to the line to slow the whale and keep it at the surface while they carefully assessed the situation. They then used hook-shaped knives on the end of long poles to make a series of cuts through the line, completely freeing the whale.
Scott Landry, Director of the MAER team, said that the whale’s behavior during the response went from calm to bouts of thrashing.
“This is a good reminder to any mariner who finds an entangled whale should call for help and wait for assistance,” said Landry. “Whales are extremely unpredictable wild animals. Generally speaking, everything goes well until it does not go well, which is why mariners should never touch gear on entangled whales.”
This is the third disentanglement of a humpback whale by the MAER team in less than two weeks. The first was off Wood End, Provincetown on May 14, and the second – a well-known whale named Foggy – was off Cape Ann on May 18.
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, and to stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.
The Center is very grateful to the beachgoers who initially reported the entanglement, the Provincetown Harbormaster, Captain Willis King and the crew of the F/V Donna Marie, and US Coast Guard Station Provincetown for their assistance in this response.
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.