First reported right whale of 2008 entangled in Cape Cod Bay

First reported right whale of 2008 entangled in Cape Cod Bay
Right whale number 2645, an adult female, spotted in the Bay
 

pccs_rightwhale_599
   Image courtesy of PCCS, right whale images taken under NOAA Fisheries permit 932-1489, under the authority of the
   U.S. Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.

PROVINCETOWN – The first right whale of the 2008 season was reported Saturday in Cape Cod Bay.  The whale, a member of a critically endangered species, is also the first entangled right whale reported in the new year.  A right whale aerial survey team with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) spotted the whale during the second flight of the survey season.

With a population of less than 400 North Atlantic right whales, the entanglement of right whale number 2645 is of particular concern to researchers.  The loss of one breeding female could be detrimental to the recovery of the species. Right whale number 2645 is an adult female, with a long history of migration to the feeding grounds of Cape Cod Bay.  According to the New England Aquarium, which curates the right whale catalogue on behalf of the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, the whale was first sighted by researchers in 1996 with her mother in the calving grounds of the Southeast region, before migrating to the critical habitat of Cape Cod Bay later that same year.  She has been seen nearly every year since her birth often in Cape Cod Bay.  A breeding female, 2645 lost her first calf in 2005 when she was just nine years old, but appeared with a new calf last January, 2007, off of the calving grounds of the Southeast.  Right whale, 2645 and her calf made their way to the Bay of Fundy where they were seen on September 17, 2007 swimming gear free.  But on Saturday, at approximately 3:30 p.m., the PCCS Aerial Survey team spotted her again during the second flight of the season.  This time however, the animal was trailing green line from the right side of her mouth.

The team contacted the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Hotline, which PCCS operates.  Disentanglement team members coordinated a response to evaluate the entanglement.  Researchers with the PCCS Habitat Studies program were in Cape Cod Bay; conducting the first Habitat Studies cruise of the 2008 season aboard the R/V Shearwater, which was diverted to investigate the entanglement as the survey team stood by until its arrival.  As dusk approached, the Skymaster aircraft returned to Chatham airport.  Scientists and researchers aboard the R/V Shearwater continued attempts to approach the entangled right whale until darkness closed in and the team was forced to abort the mission.

The USCG has been alerted to keep an eye out for the entangled right whale, a member of a dwindling population.  The PCCS disentanglement team is on standby ready to respond if the animal is sighted again.  With a population of less than 400 North Atlantic right whales, the entanglement of right whale number 2645 is of particular concern to researchers.  The loss of one breeding female could be detrimental to the recovery of the species.

The majority of right whale deaths are the result of human activities including collisions with ships and entanglements in commercial fishing gear.  At most, 10 percent of entangled right whales are reported to authorities each year.  If you spot an entangled whale, please call the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Hotline at 1-800-900-3662.

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