“Despite a horrific entanglement, the whale was highly mobile,” according to the Center for Coastal Studies.
This particular whale, a male, was initially discovered July 4 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. He was spotted again July 19, and a team from the New England Aquarium was able to attach a telemetry buoy to the whale to track his movements, the center said.
Despite several attempts to free the animal, only some cuts were made to his entanglement. By Aug. 2, his health had deteriorated.
“It was thin and covered in whale lice, both signs of poor health,” the Center for Coastal Studies said. “Baleen was protruding from its mouth, and line was wrapped around its head, effectively wiring its mouth shut and preventing it from feeding. It had numerous open wounds, and its right flipper was pinned to its body.”
Over several hours, the team, which had to maintain a safe distance from the agitated animal, were able to remove more than 300 feet of heavy rope from the whale.
“The entanglement was complex, and the configuration changed as the whale dove and resurfaced,” the Center for Coastal Studies said. “The whale still had wraps of line through its mouth and over the top of its [head], but these may be shed as the whale resumes feeding.”
The network of entanglement responders will keep an eye out for the whale and monitor him for any changes.
“While the chances of its survival are much improved, the whale is by no means out of the woods” said Scott Landry, director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response for the Center for Coastal Studies. “Many people have worked very hard on this case over the last few weeks. We have done all we can do for this whale. This case really highlights that preventing entanglements will be key to conserving this species.”
The individual is one of about 400 North Atlantic right whales left. The species is protected from hunting, but entanglements and ship strikes still threaten the population.
The Center for Coastal Studies, the Northeastern Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Fisheries Service collaborated to help this entangled whale.