September 23, 2016
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team at the Center for Coastal Studies worked to disentangle a North Atlantic right whale yesterday on Stellwagen Bank. By sunset the remaining entangling gear on the whale was outfitted with a telemetry buoy that will allow the team to track the whale and monitor its progress.
The whale was originally found by recreational boaters but was subsequently lost. The Dolphin VIII whale watch however came across the whale and stood by it until the MAER team arrived. They found a relatively large right whale towing hundreds of feet of line and buoys from its upper jaw. The team quickly added a large buoy to its entanglement to mark the whale during dives.
Using hook-shaped knives at the end of long poles, the team systematically cut away most of the trailing ropes and then added a telemetry buoy to the remaining line. The team then concentrated on making a cut to the tight wrap of rope around the head of the whale. This was a challenge as the whale did its best to avoid the response vessel as much as possible. Eventually the team dragged a sharp knife over the rope as the whale dove. After this the whale completely disappeared from the area and was not re-sighted by the team before sunset.
It is believed that the whale should shed the remaining gear as the drag of the telemetry buoy pulls the gear slowly, over time. The whale will be tracked and monitored over time. The New England Aquarium right whale research team has identified the whale as #3823, an eight year old female last seen in November 2015.
The MAER team is grateful to the mariners who reported the entanglement and the Dolphin Fleet for standing by the whale.
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 grants from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF). and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.