The Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown disentangled a juvenile humpback whale today (September 1, 2015) east of Cape Cod.
The young whale was found entangled last Saturday afternoon east of Chatham, MA by recreational fishermen who stood by the whale until the CCS marine animal entanglement response team arrived.
At that time the sea conditions prevented the team from launching a full disentanglement operation but they were able to attach a satellite telemetry buoy to the entanglement; this allowed the whale’s movements to be tracked so that it could be located when sea conditions improved enough for the team to launch a full response.
The whale was remotely followed over the subsequent days as it traveled offshore of Cape Cod.
Sea conditions improved late Monday night; the MAER team left Provincetown before dawn on Tuesday and tracked the whale down 55 miles southeast of Highland Light.
The whale was badly entangled with line through its mouth leading to very tight wraps of rope around its tail. The whale was essentially hogtied and had to use its pectoral flippers instead of its tail to swim.
The team attached large buoys to the entangling gear to keep the whale at the surface long enough to make a series of cuts using hook-shaped knives at the end of long poles. After three hours of difficult work the whale swam off free of its entanglement.
The Center’s Humpback Whale Studies program, who also participated in the disentanglement, identified the whale as the 2014 calf of Perseid, a well-known humpback whale.
Boaters in the Northeast 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.
CCS disentanglement work is supported by a grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF), and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET). Support is also provided by 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.