BAR HARBOR — The crew of a local whale watch boat teamed up whale rescue specialist over the weekend to free and entangled humpback whale off Mount Desert Rock.
On Friday, Sept. 12 a whale watching tour from Bar Harbor found a heavily entangled humpback whale two miles north of Mount Desert Rock at around 1 p.m. Atlanticat which is operated by Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company had about 270 passengers aboard. The 40-foot humpback whale had line and net wrapped around its head, back, tail stock, through the mouth and around a pectoral flipper and was connected to four floating buoys. Some bottom fishing gear was anchoring it in place. The animal was breathing hard and obviously stressed and had a patch on its back where the line had rubbed the skin away leaving a visible bleeding wound.
Captains Brian Silverman and Bryce Moody immediately called in the entanglement and position to Jamison Smith, project leader for the NOAA Atlantic large whale disentanglement network located in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The whale watch crew and passengers then stood by, collected pictures and tried to determine if the whale was tethered in place or slowly towing the fixed fishing gear.
Within two hours the Maine Department of Marine Resources vessel the Dirigo was on route from Southwest Harbor with a trained crew and lots of specialized equipment needed for whale disentanglement.
Over the next few hours the Marine Patrol successfully removed and cut away all the gear around the head and mid-section of the whale. But with sun setting and the larger portion of line wrapped around the tail stock ten feet underwater they knew that they remainder of line would need to be addressed in the morning. They were able to attach a telemetry buoy to the fixed gear in case the whale was able to move overnight so they could find it at first light. Upon returning to Bar Harbor the whale watch staff photographer, Barry Gutradt, sent photographs to Jooke Robbins. Dr. Robbins is the leader of the humpback whale research program at Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown MA and she was able to identify the whale by the shape of its dorsal fin only as well known whale named Spinnaker who was first sighted in 2004.
Crews returned to the whale Saturday morning and by afternoon had it freed from the remaining fishing gear by afternoon.