Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wart partially disentangled

The NOAA aerial survey team spotted Wart #1140 on May 1 in the Great South Channel off Cape Cod. The Center for Coastal Studies team were already on the water and proceeded to the location. The plane was able to stay on site through most of the disentanglement attempt and helped to keep the boat team on Wart as she actively avoided all attempts to get close to her. This avoidance behaviour is very common in right whales and complicates getting near a whale to remove entangling lines but is inherent to right whales to avoid harassment. Their strength and endurance that allows them to feed for hours on end with their mouth open straining zooplankton from the water, also prevents them from tiring easily when pursued. Unfortunately, it was not enough to protect them from the determination of the whalers.

Using a new cutting device, the disentanglement team eventually were able to cut the two lines over Wart's rostrum between her large lower lips and the line fell away. Sinking line still exits the mouth but when the plane had to return to shore for fuel, the boat team were unable to get close enough to try to grapple the sinking line. They were able to get clear photographs that the rostrum line was gone. If Wart is seen again, she will be assessed as to the remaining entanglement. It is hoped that with the two lines gone from the rostrum, the other line may work its way out of the mouth but it is not known how the line is held in the baleen.

Great work to the NOAA aerial crew and the Center for Coastal Studies disentanglement team!

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