Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response team frees entangled minke whale. Photo/NEFSC

Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response team frees entangled minke whale. Photo/NEFSC

On Sunday, April 13, the Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown, MA, released a minke whale that was entangled in fishing gear approximately 10 miles outside Boston Harbor.

The whale was first spotted earlier in the week by researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), who were in the area to retrieve a passive acoustic buoy used to record the sounds of right whales.

The NEFSC vessel returned to the site yesterday and spotted the whale in the same location; observers were able to confirm that the whale was towing a rope and buoy. After calling in the sighting to the MAER team the NEFSC researchers stood by the whale until they were relieved by a USCG vessel from Boston.

When CCS responders arrived at the location they found the minke swimming in large circles, indicating that it was anchored in place by the fishing gear. The team quickly established a workline with a grapple to the entanglement, which kept the whale near the surface and allowed them time to assess the condition of the animal and the extent of the entanglement.

The whale, which was very small and presumed to be a juvenile, had the buoy line wrapped tightly around its lower jaw. The MAER team deployed a small inflatable vessel and used the workline to approach the whale; when they were close enough, the responders were able to make a single cut to the line, freeing the whale. The whale swam off vigorously.

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