Update, 6/14/2006: Rapier
has been sighted by many whale watchers this season, on Stellwagen Bank and
surrounding waters. She is one of a growing list of females with calves this
humpback sightings here).
With the help of a fisherman and whale watch companies the PCCS disentanglement team successfully disentangled a humpback whale yesterday, 8/30/04, off the ocean side of Cape Cod. The whale, an animal tentatively identified as Rapier, a mature female humpback, was found heavily entangled in fishing gear by a local lobsterman.
Disentanglement team adds a control line to the entanglement on Rapier using a thrown grapple.
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
After reporting the sighting to PCCS at 10am, the fisherman agreed to standby the whale in heavy fog until whale watch vessels from the Portuguese Princess and Dolphin Fleets took over. Using the new rescue vessel Ibis, the team made their way around the Cape from Provincetown and arrived on scene in just over an hour.
The team found a large (45-50-foot) humpback whale with two wraps of line around the upper jaw, under the body and around the flukes. From the flukes the line headed to heavy gear on the seafloor. The whale was moving very slowly, using current and strokes with its flippers. After assessing the animal and its entanglement, the team deemed the situation life threatening and decided to attempt a disentanglement.
Diagram of entanglement
Using a grappling hook the team members working aboard a small inflatable attached a working line and buoy to the rope that anchored the whale to the seafloor. With the drag of extra buoys, the whale was safely held in place while the team made one cut to the rope on the whales’ head. The drag of the work buoys quickly pulled the freed rope from the head and flukes. The whale quickly dove and disappeared into the fog.
Without the support of the fisherman and whale watch operators (and their passengers), this disentanglement would not have been possible. Most important was their willingness to stand by the animal.
click here to read about previous entanglements