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    Humpback whale, Sockeye, disentangled on Stellwagen Bank - 7/10/2006

     
     

    Sockeye, an adult male humpback whale, was disentangled by the PCCS disentanglement team on Sunday, 7/9/06. The successful disentanglement was made possible by the generous collaboration of local whale watch companies, NOAA Fisheries and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS).

     

     

    The upper jaw and chin of Sockeye as he raises his head (note closed blowholes at lower right). Red net and green rope entangling the tubercles of the lower jaw.
    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.

    Late in the morning on Sunday, whale watch crews from the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises sighted a humpback whale swimming on Stellwagen Bank (the shallow waters between Gloucester and Provincetown) with bright red netting and green rope streaming from his mouth. Sockeye is a well-known humpback whale, easily identified by a severe underbite as he surfaces to breath. This deformity was noted when he was first seen in 1984.

    After reporting the sighting to PCCS the whale watch boats from the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, Portuguese Princess and Dolphin Fleet offered to stand by the whale as he traveled with two other whales, including Putter, another humpback disentangled by PCCS in 1998. Without this stand by effort it is very likely that Sockeye would have been lost. By midday SBNMS researchers aboard the NOAA Fisheries research vessel Nancy Foster relieved the whale watch boats as the disentanglement team aboard the Ibis made their way to the whale. The crew of the Nancy Foster was conducting behavioral research on humpback whales and was ideally suited to standing by and documenting the entangled animal.

     

     

    Team being towed by Sockeye as he arches in an attempt to dive.
    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 whale had a long length of line and netting attached at the tip of the mouth and trailing to two wraps at the flukes. The team noted that the monofilament webbing was fouled on the raised tubercles (enlarged hair follicles) of the chin.

    The PCCS disentanglement team, joined by a scientist from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and once on scene, the team deployed a small inflatable boat for the disentanglement attempt. Using a grappling hook, the team attached a long length of rope to the entanglement on the whale. Using the drag of buoys and the work vessel, the whale was slowed and kept at the surface. Using a long pole and hook-shaped knife, the team cut the rope wrapped around the flukes and slowly pulled the remaining gear from the mouth.
     

     

    Using pole and hook-shaped knife to cut the entanglement below the waterline.
    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 successful outcome of this disentanglement would not have been possible without the collaborative effort between PCCS, whale watch companies, NOAA Fisheries, SBNMS and other research institutions. PCCS would like to thank the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, Portuguese Princess Excursions, and the Dolphin Fleet. Special thanks goes to the crew of the Nancy Foster.

    click here for a list of previous entanglements

     
     


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