Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rescuers disentangle whale off Provincetown!

Cape Cod Times article
By Mary Ann Bragg

September 28, 2009 2:59 PM

"PROVINCETOWN - Whale rescuers cut away rope from a North Atlantic right whale Saturday just outside Provincetown Harbor after the crew of a local whale watch company reported the entanglement.

The right whale, born in 2008 to a right whale labeled 1321 among whale researchers, had rope wrapped around its head and mouth, potentially impeding its ability to feed, said Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies spokeswoman Tanya Grady.

The crew of the Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown reported the whale in distress. A team of rescuers from the center freed it from the rope with help from the Provincetown harbormaster's office and the Provincetown station of the U.S. Coast Guard, Grady said.

So far this year, the center's rescuers have untangled two right whales, three humpback whales and eight leatherback sea turtles - all protected species under federal guidelines. The rescuers operate with federal permits and federal and state grants.

A majority of right whale deaths are from entanglements with fishing gear, Grady said. Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay are designated critical habitats for North Atlantic right whales."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Inside Look at Baleen

I recently read the book "Stellwagen Bank" by Nathalie Ward, and it has this great drawing that really demonstrates how baleen works!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rescuers untangle rope from whale

Cape Cod Times
September 11, 2009

PROVINCETOWN — A rescue crew untangled rope from a 45-foot right whale named Mavynne last Friday about 50 miles north of the Cape, according to Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies spokeswoman Tanya Grady.

Mavynne's upper jaw and body were tangled in three layers of synthetic rope, which was connected to heavy fishing gear below the water's surface, Grady said.

The first report of the entanglement came at about 7:30 a.m., with a recreational fisherman and others alerting authorities.

Right whale researchers had last seen Mavynne Aug. 28 in the Bay of Fundy, accompanied by her calf, Grady said. At the time, the whale was free of any rope. The calf was not observed during last week's disentanglement.

In addition to Mavynne, this year Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies staff members have untangled three humpback whales and eight leatherback sea turtles. All of the animals are considered endangered species under federal law.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

NOAA Launches Whale SENSE!

NOAA, Partners Launch Effort for Tour Operators to Protect Whales

Whale SENSE Recognizes Responsible Whale Watch Companies

September 10, 2009
NOAA has joined with private industry and conservation groups to launch Whale SENSE, a new voluntary program that encourages whale-watch tour operators from Maine to Virginia to practice responsible viewing. The program will also recognize businesses that discourage the harassment of whales in the wild and promote good stewardship.

The program was developed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s northeast region and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and several New England commercial whale watching companies.

The United States has the largest whale watching industry in the world and whale watch vessels often play important roles in reporting and standing by injured, sick, entangled or ship struck animals until help arrives. All whales are protected under federal laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act, that safeguard them from being injured, killed, or harassed and having their important natural behaviors interrupted.

“Tour companies in the Whale SENSE program that prioritize education and responsible whale watching could be very attractive to potential customers who spend quite a lot to view these animals in their natural habitat,” said Allison Rosner, a biologist with NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources and NOAA program coordinator for Whale SENSE.

According to a recent report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the whale watching industry contributed nearly $1 billion to the nation’s economy in 2008.

“Whale watching in this region is an important part of the local economy,” said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. “It must be done responsibly to keep from accidentally injuring or harassing the animals while they engage in vital behaviors like nursing, feeding, or resting.”

Program coordinators say Whale SENSE will recognize companies with good stewardship practices, promote high standards of education, and harness their ability to encourage others to care about whales and practice responsible viewing themselves.

To become a Whale SENSE participant, company vessel operators and the naturalists who narrate tours, are required to attend annual training on safe operations and whale ecology. Through these workshops, companies learn more about passenger education, whale watching guidelines and regulations, and good marine stewardship practices. Once a participant company has completed the program, it is granted full use of the Whale SENSE logo and becomes listed on the Whale SENSE Web site.

Massachusetts-based Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, Dolphin Fleet, and Massachusetts Bay Lines, are among the first companies to participate in Whale SENSE.

“We believe it is the responsibility of the whale watching industry to set higher standards for safe navigation around the whales, as well as educating the public in their understanding of the marine life and how humans affect these habitats,” said Steve Milliken, owner of the Dolphin Fleet. “We think it is important to do more than simply watch whales. We have to protect them, too.”

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Crew rescues North Atlantic right whale

Tangled in rope and gear, 40-ton animal set free

The right whale was entangled in synthetic rope, which the rescue team was able to remove.

By Abbie Ruzicka
Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2009


A 45-foot North Atlantic right whale was rescued from a life-threatening entanglement off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H., yesterday.

A fisherman spotted the whale on Jeffreys Ledge, which lies 50 miles north of Provincetown and 25 miles east of Portsmouth, around 7:30 a.m. yesterday and reported it to the New Hampshire Coast Guard. The Coast Guard then notified the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

Rescuers found the whale just before noon ensnared in synthetic rope that wrapped three times around the whale’s upper jaw and once around its upper body, leading to heavy gear below the animal, said Scott Landry, a member of the rescue team who is director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team.

The rescue team positioned its 39-foot vessel next to the estimated 40-ton whale as it came to the surface to breathe, Landry recounted.

The rescuers then used a 30-foot pole attached to a grappling hook to make one clean cut to the rope, which subsequently slipped off the whale’s jaw and body.

It took the three-person team only 40 minutes to execute the rescue, Landry said.

Right whale rescues are treacherous, because the large animals can thrash about or knock into the boat.

“It’s hard to express how lucky we got today,’’ Landry said. “If it so much as touches us we’re in very big trouble.’’

There is no way to know where or how the whale became tangled in the rope, Landry said; right whales are incredibly powerful and can pick up fishing gear and swim thousands of miles.

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with only an estimated 400 in the Atlantic Ocean between Nova Scotia and Florida.

Rescuers took photos of the whale. The shots will be sent to the New England Aquarium and categorized so researchers can track the whale, Landry said.

This was the crew’s fourth whale rescue this year, he said.

About 70 percent of right whales and Humpback whales in the Atlantic Ocean have scarring from entanglement, Landry said.