The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) at CCS disentangled a minke whale off of Rockport, MA on Thursday, August 1. The whale was discovered by a commercial fisherman, who immediately reported and stood by it as the MAER team made their way up from Provincetown.
Using a small inflatable boat to approach the whale, the team used an underwater camera on a long pole to assess the whale and its entanglement. The team found that the 18-foot whale was effectively anchored by the gear, with rope through its mouth and around its tail. Some of the rope on the whale had cut in deeply and minor bleeding was seen by the team. During one of the approaches the whale surged forward in the water and began to thrash. At that moment the team saw a white shark pass under the whale. Considering this, the team moved onto its larger response vessel, Ibis.
From Ibis, the team used a grappling hook to get hold of the entanglement and keep the whale within reach of long poles outfitted with hook-shaped knives. With a single cut, the wraps of rope around the tail of the whale were released. This allowed the whale to swim normally. As the whale swam forward, the team held onto the rope caught in its mouth. Within moments the whale released this rope and swam off at a high speed.
Many thanks goes to the commercial fisherman for reporting the entanglement and standing by the whale. Thanks also to the Rockport harbor master and responders from the National Marine Fisheries Service for standing by and supporting the MAER team.
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, and contributions from CCS members. All disentanglement activities are conducted under a federal permit authorized by NOAA.