October 20, 2016
The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) freed a humpback whale from an entanglement in fishing gear yesterday off Cape Cod. The whale, a mature female named Storm, was accompanied by her calf. This is the second time this year Storm was disentangled and the 20th marine animal disentangled by CCS’ Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) this year.
The Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch came across a mother and calf humpback whale less than a mile offshore of Provincetown, MA at around 2:00 pm yesterday. The mother, identified as Storm by the CCS Humpback Whale Studies Program, was towing rope and a buoy. The MAER team was a few miles to the south conducting research on humpback whales and responded quickly to the call from the Dolphin Fleet. The vessel, Dolphin VIII, with hundreds of passengers onboard, agreed to stand by the whales while the MAER team responded.
Once on scene the team found that Storm had about 130 feet of rope and a small buoy caught in her mouth. While the configuration of the entanglement was not immediately life threatening to Storm, her calf however was in constant contact with the rope during bouts of nursing. Considering this, the team chose to intervene. Using a thrown grappling hook the team added a large buoy to her entanglement, no mark her position as she dove and to begin the process of disentanglement. The team then deployed a small inflatable boat from its response vessel, Ibis, and used the newly-added buoy to pull up the rope just behind the tail of Storm. Adding more buoys, a sea anchor and the inflatable boat, the team increased the drag to the entanglement. During this process the calf stayed very close to Storm. By 5:00 pm Storm raised her head above the water, which allowed all of the entangling rope to come free of her mouth. Within minutes, her calf began a bout of nursing.
The MAER team released Storm from a very similar entanglement on August 14 of this year, on Stellwagen Bank. So far this year the team has helped remove entanglements from nine humpback whales, two fin whales, one right whale and nine leatherback sea turtles.
Many thanks goes to all mariners who aided in these operations this year, as well as to the captain, crew and passengers of the Dolphin VIII for standing by and reporting Storm yesterday afternoon.
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.
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 DJ&T Foundation, 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.