A humpback whale was freed after being badly entangled in fishing gear east of Hull on Sunday, officials said.
Recreational fishermen spotted the young whale and reported the sighting to the Coast Guard, according to a statement from the Center for Coastal Studies. As they waited for CSS’ Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team to arrive, the fishermen and Coast Guard lost track of the whale after it dove underwater.
The approximately 30-foot whale managed to swim four miles southeast from where it was originally spotted, despite having hundreds of ropes attached to its body, officials said. Another recreational vessel came across the whale and reported it.
“Once on scene, the [MAER] team assessed the approximately 30-foot whale and found that it had bitten down on the buoy line of fishing gear and the ropes had twisted around its head and tail,” the statement said.
Still, the whale was mobile enough to evade the team, the statement said. Using a grappling hook thrown into the ropes, they began to disentangle the whale. Eventually, the team — working from a small inflatable boat — managed to pull itself close enough to the whale to cut the rope using a 30-foot pole.
Soon after the ropes were removed, the whale swam away, officials said.
The MAER team is also currently searching for Snow Cone, an entangled North Atlantic right whale that has faced a series of entanglements and tragedies in recent years, including having her mother and calf die after being hit by vessels. They believe she may be near Nantucket Shoals, but weather conditions in the area have not been suitable for the team to attempt to disentangle Snow Cone since she was last seen in September.