Rescuers free a young humpback whale tangled in buoys near Cape Cod

July 25, 2017, 8:56 a.m.
Marine Animal Entanglement Response team in Provincetown disentangled a young humpback whale northeast of Nauset Inlet.
Photo: CCS mage under NOAA permit #18786

A young humpback whale left Nauset Inlet in Cape Cod with a much lighter load after rescuers disentangled him from some unwieldy cargo.

The whale was spotted by a charter vessel just outside the inlet. The whale was towing two bright orange buoys, but still was able to dive and travel through the water. People aboard the charter vessel asked for rescue assistance.

The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown arrived to free the whale. The rescuers discovered that the whale had heavy line looped through its mouth and twisted across its back. It also had tangled line and buoys that trailed about 100 feet behind its tail.

The rescuers hooked a grapple and floats to the trailing gear to slow down the whale and keep it near the surface. They then slowly moved along the lines, cutting away the tangled line and buoys a little at a time.

According to a release from the team:

"Eventually they were able to safely approach the animal, cut through the twisted line and unwind the gear. Eventually the bridle untwisted and the whale was left with a short length of line in its mouth. As it moved away the remaining rope was pulled from its mouth and it sped off."

CCS disentanglement work is supported by several grants and foundations, including grants from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The rescue work is conducted under a federal permit authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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