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Helping a Humpback Whale in Distress


Scott Landry and Jenn Tackaberry, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.  Photo credit: Danielle Monaghan, Marine Mammal Stranding Center permit #932-1905 

Center for Coastal Studies staff.  Photo credit: Danielle Monaghan, Marine Mammal Stranding Center permit #932-1905 

Federal officials and partners today, successfully freed an entangled juvenile humpback whale off the coast of New Jersey.   

On November 14, the U.S. Coast Guard deployed a vessel to the area to collect information, photographs and video. Collected information enabled NOAA Fisheries and responders, on the ground, to determine how the whale was entangled and the best course of action for freeing the animal. 

The Coast Guard established a protection zone of 300 yards around the animal. Members of the public were urged to please respect the safety zone so as not to impede rescue operations. Situations like this, involving large animals, can be dangerous.  

"Respecting that safety zone around an entangled animal is really important," said David Morin, NOAA Fisheries Northeast Region Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Coordinator. "Because it helps us ensure the safety of rescue workers and the public and avoid causing further injury to the animal."  

Humpback whales are protected under both the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for monitoring whale populations and working with authorized partners to assist sick, injured, stranded or entangled animals.   

The Center for Coastal Studies, Provincetown, MA, led the rescue effort. The Center for Coastal Studies, is a member of NOAA Fisheries Large Whale Disentanglement Network and is experienced and authorized in this type of whale rescue. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, Brigantine NJ, also assisted by collecting biological information and helping to document the disentanglement effort. Information collected not only aided in the rescue of this particular animal but also may help federal officials and partners prevent future entanglements.

“We are very grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Center for Coastal Studies and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center for their help,” said Morin. “We also want to remind concerned members of the public that the best thing they can do to help any entangled or stranded animal that they may encounter is to keep a safe distance and notify the appropriate authorities who are trained to assist animals in distress. If you have a smart phone you can also snap a picture. This gives responders a heads up about what they may be dealing with before they get to the scene.”

For more on what you can do if you see an entangled or stranded whale please visit the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional office website.  To report an entangled or stranded whale, please call NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622)

Click here to view Coast Guard video of the protection zone.

For press inquries contact:  

Nick Ameen, U.S. Coast Guard 757-434-6043

Maggie Mooney-Seus, NOAA Fisheries 978-281-9175/774-392-4865 ( c )

Cathrine Macort, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies 508-808-9660

Bob Schoelkopf, Marine Mammal Stranding Center 609-335-2985