Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies frees heavily entangled humpback whale

PROVINCETOWN – The Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team disentangled the humpback whale “Valley” Wednesday afternoon!

The MAER team was originally called in by the crew of the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, who found the entangled whale on Monday afternoon on the southern end of Stellwagen Bank, northeast of Provincetown. When they arrived on the scene the team found that she was towing heavy line that was lodged in her mouth. Sea conditions were poor and getting worse, but the team was able to attach a specially-designed satellite tracking buoy to her entanglement before heading back to land.

During the night the whale traveled roughly 25 miles north to the waters outside Boston Harbor, but sometime in the early morning she dragged her entanglement into more fishing gear and became anchored in place. A lobster vessel found her and reported her predicament, and the CCS team deployed for a second rescue attempt.

Sea conditions were much calmer, and the responders could see that Valley had a long length of rope hanging from her mouth heading to heavy gear at the sea floor.

Carefully approaching the whale on a small inflatable boat, the CCS crew used a hook-shaped knife at the end of a thirty foot pole to cut the rope that was anchoring her to the sea floor. They then tied large buoys to the rope in her mouth to add drag to the line, and as she moved away the remaining entanglement was pulled free. Now completely relieved of gear, Valley swam off at high speed.

Based on her body condition it appears that she had been entangled for weeks or months, so it’s likely that the entangling gear was picked up on her migration from the humpback mating and calving grounds in the West Indies. Now free from the stress and exhausting effort of dragging the heavy entanglement, Valley’s prognosis is good.

CCS is grateful to the whalewatch vessels and commercial fisher for all of their help in this case. Boaters should report sightings of #entangled marine animals to the MAER team (1-800-900-3622) or the US Coast Guard on VHF 16, and stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.
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