Young Humpback Whale Disentangled by Center for Coastal Studies

Humpback whale’s fluke became entangled in fishing gear. CCS image, NOAA permit #18786.

PROVINCETOWN – The Center for Coastal Studies disentangled a young humpback whale Tuesday off Provincetown.

In a rare, chance occurrence, the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team witnessed the whale become entangled.

Within an hour the team helped remove the gear from the whale.

The MAER team was conducting a research cruise with the CCS Humpback Whale Studies Program Tuesday morning when they came across two young humpback whales feeding off Herring Cove, Provincetown.

The whales were lunging through schools of sand lance (small fish often preyed upon by humpback whales) when one of the whales struck a buoy line marking fishing gear.

The whale quickly drew the buoy beneath the surface.

“When the whale resurfaced nearby it was rolling and thrashing, clearly upset. It happened shockingly fast” said Scott Landry, director of the MAER program.

The whale began to tow the fishing gear north, out of the bay, at nearly 10 knots.

The team also reacted quickly and threw a grappling hook into the gear being towed by the whale.

With a sixty foot length of rope and a large float, the grapple marked the whale during dives and helped slow the whale.

This gave the team time to ready disentanglement gear, including a small inflatable boat.

During this process the whale went through bouts of high speed swimming, then slowing to swim in circles.

An hour after becoming entangled the drag of the large float the team had attached to the entanglement helped the whale draw all of the entangling rope from its body.

It swam off quickly.

The CCS Humpback Whale Studies Program is working to identify the individual whale which will allow them to follow up with the whale in the future.

This is the tenth humpback whale disentangled by the MAER team in 2016.

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.

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