Animals and Insects

Endangered North Atlantic right whale still entangled in Cape Cod Bay

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered large whale species in the world, with only about 350 remaining in existence.

The entangled whale, which was initially detected south of Nantucket in February, has been identified as a female.
The entangled whale, which was initially detected south of Nantucket in February, has been identified as a female with the label #4545.
Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER).

Despite constant efforts to set her free, a North Atlantic right whale has been badly entangled in Cape Cod Bay since Wednesday.

According to the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team, while they have been working to help the whale and have removed 200 feet of heavy rope from her, she remains entangled.

"This is obviously a difficult situation. We worked very hard for this whale on Wednesday, and she did all she could to avoid us. With the telemetry buoy in place on her entanglement, all of our attention will be focused on trying again," said Scott Landry, director of MAER.

Initially, the MAER team was only able to see that her entanglement had a lengthy section of dense rope entwined through her mouth. As time passed, the entanglement grew into a potentially fatal situation, with numerous coils wrapping around her body and most likely even her flippers.

The MAER team has attached a small telemetry buoy to facilitate tracking the whale in hopes of helping her as soon as possible. However, weather will play a big role in the disentanglement, as good weather is hard to come by this time of year.

North Atlantic right whales are currently facing critical endangerment, with only approximately 350 remaining in existence, as reported by the MAER.

MAER says that this case underscores the ongoing necessity to decrease the amount of rope present in areas where whales reside.

"Whales can pick up gear from anywhere within their range and drag it around for weeks and months. Their range is huge, stretching from Canada to Florida. Using disentanglement as a tool for conservation is helpful but has its limitations. We have no control over when or where an entangled whale will be discovered," said Landry.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, these whales face more threats than just entanglement in fishing gear. They also face the perils of being struck by vessels, the impacts of climate change that could potentially modify their migratory routes and feeding grounds, and the adverse effects of ocean noise on their communication, feeding, and navigational abilities, which is why these whales are safeguarded by federal law.