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    Humpback whale, Regulus, found entangled - 7/15/05, updated 11/28/05



      The disentanglement team carefully approaches Regulus, attempting to cut the rope
    that lies on the back between the blowholes at right and the dorsal fin at left.
    PCCS image taken under NOAA-Fisheries permit 932-1489, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts - please request PCCS permission for use

    Update, 11/28/2005: Regulus was sighted by the humpback whale survey team today and was confirmed to be gear-free: no rope was seen in the deep wound across his back or embedded in his flippers. Overall, his condition was relatively poor; he appeared somewhat skinny and had areas of pale, patchy skin. He was found just north of Race Point, Provincetown in association with another humpback whale.

    Update, 7/31/05:
    Regulus was found early yesterday morning (7/30/05) by the PCCS humpback whale research team working aboard the R/V Shearwater. They were joined by the disentanglement team after standing by the animal as it traveled slowly north. Despite numerous attempts to cut the line wrapped tightly around the girth of the whale, further attempts were called off due to the increasing evasiveness of the whale. While the entanglement is considered life threatening, some observations indicate that there is potential for the whale to free itself.

    The whale was found at 7am just north of Highland Light off the ocean side of Cape Cod. While the humpback research team stood by the whale they were able to get some incredible documentation of the whales’ entanglement. Alternating between resting at the surface and breaching the team was able to observe Regulus from a variety of angles and pieced together the precise placement of the wounds and rope on his body. Relatively thick, yellow nylon line formed a tight hoop around the whale and was held in place by deep grooves at the front edge of each flipper, the belly and the back. The hoop seems to be joined by a tangle at the belly with bitter ends trailing at least a short distance. Critically, these trailing lines do not seem to trail beyond the flukes. While there are no overt signs of infection at the body parts that were observed, the animal appears to be quite thin – a condition that may or may not be caused by the entanglement. Close examination of the photographs show at least one weak spot in the entanglement: the rope appears to be nearly parted where it crosses over the belly. Over time, and with active behavior, it is believed that the parting of this line would free this animal of its entanglement.


    Close up detail of the rope as it crosses over the belly - note how the rope is nearly parted at lower left and
    wound where the rope cuts into the front edge of right flipper
    PCCS image taken under NOAA-Fisheries permit 932-1489, under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts - please request PCCS permission for use

    The research team noted a change in the behavior of the animal just before the arrival of the disentanglement team. After some relatively active surface behavior the whale began to travel steadily north, taking 4-5 breaths before diving for 5-10 minutes. Since there was no significant trailing line for attaching floats to slow the whale, the team planned to make approaches to the whale by inflatable boat and make a single cut to the rope with a hook-shaped knife at the end of a long pole. Without a control line to slow the animal such approaches are extremely difficult. With each successive approach the whale became increasingly evasive, curtailing its surface time by taking fewer breaths. Many attempts were made as the team followed the whale over Stellwagen Bank. By 3:30 the team was well north and east of Stellwagen, with the whale showing no signs of changing behavior and less than optimal sea conditions. The team decided to halt the disentanglement attempt for the day with the hope for future sightings and better sea conditions. Many thanks to the humpback whale research team for their support and patience. Any updates will be posted here.

    On July 15, 2004, at sunset, naturalists working aboard the Dolphin Fleet whale watch vessels reported an entangled humpback whale on Stellwagen Bank. Based upon photos and their description the entanglement appears to be life threatening. A disentanglement response could not be mounted due to failing light.

    The whale, identified as Regulus, a mature male, appears to be quite thin and has a tight wrap of rope around the mid-section, just forward of the dorsal fin. No other entangling lines could be seen but the entanglement may involve other body parts such as the flippers.


    Right side of Regulus as he arches for a dive - note orange rope around body

    The PCCS disentanglement team received another report of this whale on July 19. The sighting was discovered in photographs taken by a whale watcher. It appears that this whale was part of a large feeding aggregation of humpbacks that was sighted at sunset.

    The following two days the PCCS team, aboard the R/V Ibis, surveyed the northern portion of Stellwagen Bank in an effort to find this whale but without luck. Future sightings may allow for a disentanglement attempt.

    click here to read about previous entanglements


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