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      Friday, May 18, 2012

    PCCS Contact:
    Cathrine Macort
    +1-508-487-3622 x103

    Humpback whale freed from entanglement

    The entanglement response team throws
    a cutting grapple into the entanglement of
    the humpback whale, Basmati.
    PCCS image taken under
    NOAA permit 932-1905.

    Yesterday, the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) marine animal entanglement response (MAER) team worked to disentangle a humpback whale north of Provincetown. The whale, a female with a young calf, had a relatively minor entanglement, but the team removed some of the gear to minimize the chances of the entanglement becoming more complex. The entanglement was reported by staff aboard a Dolphin Fleet whale watch vessel. The boat stood by to monitor the animal until the MAER team arrived on site.

    The whale had a relatively short length of line and two buoys on the flukes. While the entanglement should have been shed by the whale relatively quickly, the team noted that healed scars from a previous entanglement were holding the current entanglement in place. To reduce the chances that her current entanglement would snag on more gear, the team removed one of the buoys and a short length of line during a 4 hour operation. Removal of more of her entanglement was deemed too risky due to the presence of her young calf and the fact that the pair was in a large feeding aggregation of other humpback whales. She will be monitored by the whale watch community and the team believes that her remaining entanglement will be shed naturally over time.

    The humpback was identified as Basmati, a 14-year old female with a dependent calf, her second on record, according to the PCCS humpback studies program.  Center researchers are very familiar with her lineage, and have documented four generations since the 1970s. Basmati exhibits scarring from previous entanglements, and these may have contributed to this latest incident. Entanglement is one of the leading causes of serious injury and mortality in humpback whales, and Center scientists have determined that more than half of the humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine have scars that were likely the result of having been entangled in lines and nets.

    PCCS entanglement response operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service under federal permits issued by NOAA. Support for the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team comes from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from PCCS members.  To report an entangled animal in Southern New England, please call: 1800-900-3622.

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