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Humpback Whale Freed from Fishing Gear

Rescuers use a pole to cut fishing line away from the whale’s tail fluke. Photo by Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

The whale had probably been dragging this fishing gear around for months. Now he was weakened to the point where he could barely move or lift his tail. Thick rope was wrapped around his body – so tightly that it was clear that he had become entangled when he was younger and smaller, and, over the months, had grown deeply into the ever-tighter synthetic material.

A fisherman spotted him on Tuesday, off the coast of Cape Cod, and called the whale rescue team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

After finding the whale attaching buoys, so they could follow him if he moved further away, they used 30-foot poles with hook-shaped knives on the end to cut the rope. Three snips and it was all over. The whale was free.

Members of the entanglement response team use a long pole to cut line wrapped around a humpback whale’s fluke.

“The whale was so injured and unhealthy that it couldn’t raise its flukes,” Scott Landry, director of the rescue team, said. “Now everything is up to the whale.”

This whale was the eleventh that the team had rescued from fishing gear. During the summer they also freed 15 entangled leatherback turtles. The turtles and the humpback whales are both endangered species.