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    2009 Disentanglement Operations

     

    Entangled Right Whale September 4, 2009

    These photos show the head of the whale before and after disentanglement.

    PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1905, with authority of the ESA.

    Friday, September 4, 2009 - The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies’ marine animal entanglement response team disentangled a 45-foot right whale, on Jeffreys Ledge (50-miles north of Provincetown, 25-miles east of Portsmouth, NH).   The whale has been identified as Mavynne, a whale last seen with her calf beside her in the Bay of Fundy by NEAq on August 28, 2009.   At that time she was not entangled.   During the disentanglement operation yesterday, the team saw no other whales in the area but one of the original reporters, a recreational fisherman, thought there might have been two whales together at 7:30 am that morning. The entanglement consisted of three wraps of synthetic rope around the whale’s upper jaw and a wrap of rope around its body, leading to heavy gear beneath it.  Much of the entangling gear was well below the surface, beneath the whale. The team used a thirty-foot extendible pole with a hook-shaped knife affixed to the end and then positioned their thirty-nine foot vessel alongside the whale, reaching out with the pole to cut the ropes.  All entangling gear was removed.


     
     

    Entangled Humpback May 4, 2009

     


    The PCCS team using a hook-shaped knife at the end of a pole to
    remove rope wrapping the flipper of this young humpback whale.
    PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1489, under the authority of the US ESA.

    On May 4, 2009 the PCCS disentanglement team freed a humpback whale from a particularly difficult entanglement, 40 miles offshore of Cape Cod. The whale was identified by the PCCS humpback whale studies program as the 2008 calf of Ravine, a whale disentangled by PCCS in 2003. The young whale was discovered by the crew aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's research vessel Tioga while they were conducting research on right whales. The crew agreed to stand by the whale until the PCCS team arrived. Responding aboard the R/V Ibis, the team found that the whale had many wraps of rope deeply embedded around the left flipper, the body and tail. In an effort to keep the whale at the surface the team used a grapple thrown into the rope trailing alongside the whale to establish a work line. With added buoys for flotation the whale slowed and rarely dove. Using a small inflatable borrowed from the Tioga, the team was able to move in alongside the whale and cut away all of the entangling gear. While some of the injuries were severe, it is hoped that the whale will be able to recover. Prior to this date the whale was last seen in September 2008 while still alongside its mother (humpback whale calves tend to stay with their mothers for no more than a year). The operation would not have been possible without the patience and generosity of the crew of the R/V Tioga.

    Entangled Humpback April 21, 2009


    Humpback whale carrying gear that was later removed by PCCS.
    PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1489, under the authority of the US ESA.

    On April 21, 2009 a Dolphin Fleet whale watch vessel sighted an entangled humpback whale just outside of Provincetown, MA, alongside Herring Cove Beach. After contacting the entanglement response hotline the whale watch captain agreed to stand by the whale until the PCCS disentanglement team arrived. Once on scene the team found a relatively small whale trailing a short length of rope and a buoy. The rope was tightly wrapped around the base of the flukes and was considered to be life threatening over the long term. Using a grappling hook thrown into this gear, the team added a work line to the entanglement and added large floats to slow the whale. Sea conditions were poor and worsening. During a dive the whale drew some of the floats below the surface which allowed the grapple to cut through the entangling lines and free the whale of its entanglement. All of the entangling gear was recovered and was sent to NOAA gear experts as part of a long term effort to understand how whales become entangled and how this can be prevented.

    Entangled Humpback February 25, 2009


    The entanglement response team assesses a badly entangled whale off the coast of New Jersey.
    PCCS image taken under NOAA permit 932-1489, under the authority of the US ESA.

    A humpback whale was found entangled on February 25, 2009 off Sandy Hook, N.J. and was freed the following day by PCCS and NOAA disentanglers. The report of this whale was intercepted by a NOAA crew aboard the R/V Nauvoo that was retrieving a telemetry buoy shed by entangled right whale #3420 (this buoy had been deployed on this whales' entanglement off the coast of Georgia on January 31, 2009). The whale was heavily entangled about the flukes and had difficulty moving effectively. Toward sunset the telemetry buoy was outfitted to the whale's entanglement while PCCS traveled overland to N.J. During the night the US Coast Guard stood watch over the whale in an effort to warn heavy shipping traffic moving in and out of New York Harbor. By early next morning the disentanglement team now aboard the R/V Nauvoo was underway and found the whale not far from where it was the previous day. The team found that the whale had deeply embedded rope around the base of the flukes leading to a heavy mass of gear at the seafloor. The R/V Nauvoo hauled this gear up to the surface allowing the disentanglers an opportunity to cut all of the gear away from the whale. Heavily injured by its former entanglement the whale swam off slowly to the east but likely had a better chance of survival now that it was free of rope and shipping traffic. The operation would not have been possible without the committed support of the US Coast Guard and NOAA.


    Click here to read about previous entanglements

     
     


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