A juvenile humpback whale that had become "anchored" to the sea floor by fishing ropes has been rescued off the Boston area.
Ropes attached to submerged fishing traps were wrapped around the base of the whale's fluke, or tail. While the mammal could surface to breathe, it struggled to swim.
The whale had been in this perilous situation since at least last Thursday, when it was discovered by commercial fishermen. “The whale had likely been anchored by its entanglement for the better part of a week,” the Center for Coastal Studies said in a statement posted Monday.
Rough weather hampered the rescue effort until the weekend, but on Sunday a team involving the CCS, Massachusetts Environmental Police, and U.S. Coast Guard completed a successful disentanglement.
Rescue work was performed from an inflatable vessel. The team used a hook-shaped knife attached to a 30-foot pole to remove ropes from the whale's injured fluke (see photo).
After the 30-foot whale was freed, the team followed the cetacean for two hours and reported, "While the prognosis for the whale is now much better, it will take time for it to heal."
Last week off Northern California, commercial fishermen took matters into their own hands and cut loose a humpback whale that had become badly entangled in crab-fishing gear.