A badly entangled humpback whale that was towing heavy rope and a large buoy off Cape Cod, was disentangled by The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.
The whale had five tight loops of heavy rope wrapped around and embedded within the base of its tail, cutting off the flow of blood to the flukes. As a result, the flukes had turned entirely white and floppy, and had become useless for swimming. The whale was making way by dog paddling with its right and left flippers.
The entangled whale was first reported by a commercial fisherman on Tuesday morning off Chatham, Massachusetts. USCG Station Chatham responded and stood by the whale as the CCS Marine Animal Entanglement Response team made its way from Provincetown.
The team was able to attach a tracking buoy to the entanglement before poor sea conditions cut short their efforts. The whale was tracked as it traveled south through the night and by 9:30 am the following day the team was back working with the animal.
The team added a series of buoys to the entanglement to slow the whale and keep it at the surface. Using very sharp knives on long poles they were able to cut away most of the rope, but left some line around the wound that may act as a temporary tourniquet to prevent against massive blood loss. This rope should unwind and be rejected over time.
Scott Landry, Director of the MAER team, noted that, while the overall condition of the young whale appeared surprisingly good, its long term prognosis is likely very poor, as it’s possible it may lose its flukes entirely.