January 31, 2020
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) right whale aerial survey team re-sighted an entangled right whale today, about 35 miles south of Nantucket.
The whale, identified as #3466, was first seen entangled on December 21, 2019, a few miles away from where it was located today, then again by the CCS aerial survey team on January 22. In all three sightings the whale was found in a large aggregation of right whales.
The whale is swimming freely with multiple lengths of yellow rope through its mouth. Scott Landry, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team noted that, while the entanglement does not appear to be immediately life-threatening, is likely impeding its ability to feed and will impact the health of the whale over time.
The CCS MAER team has been monitoring the case and is waiting for an opportunity to disentangle the whale. This attempt will be complicated by the distance from port in Nantucket to where the whale has been seen. “Coupled with the generally high winds and short days of winter, this case presents a particular logistical challenge,” Landry commented. “As in all disentanglement operations, the team will be balancing human safety and the need to disentangle the whale.”
The North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, is among the rarest of the baleen whale species, with an estimated population of less than 400 individuals.
Boaters are urged to report any entanglement sightings of whales, sea-turtles or sharks to the MAER team (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.
CCS disentanglement work is supported by grants from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF), and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. Support is also provided by the Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, the Pegasus Foundation, the Hermann Foundation, the Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation, the Summerlee Foundation, and contributions from CCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.