Gloucester harbormaster, whale watch captain team up to rescue entangled humpback

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — A remarkable rescue played out in Gloucester Tuesday morning to save a humpback whale entangled in lobster gear.

That whale managed to wiggle free before its oxygen supply was cut off by the incoming tide about 2.5 miles east of Good Harbor Beach.

Gloucester Harbormaster Thomas Ciarametaro told Boston 25 News reporter Drew Karedes he was in the middle of an oil pollution training exercise when he got the urgent phone call.

Ciarametaro said this is something he’s never received training for, but he knew he had to figure something out and fast.

“The whale’s tail was hung down and the rope was holding it to the bottom,” he said. “We were worried the whale was going to get swamped under water and not be able to breathe and subsequently drown.”

Ciarametaro credits a weary whale watch captain for calling him and directing him to the whale in crisis before it was too late.

“I saw a glare in the distance. [It was] kind of a funny glow, underneath the water, so we pulled alongside of it and noticed it was an entangled humpback whale,” Cape Ann Whale Watch Capt. John Karvelas said.

Karvelas has seen his share of whales off the coast of Gloucester in his over 20 years as a captain. He also knows how to spot when one is in trouble.

“I was quite nervous myself,” he said. “I would give three to four hours max. The whale was very lethargic and having a hard time breathing.”

Karvelas and a crowd of 178 spectators on his mid-morning whale watch kept a close eye on the 40-foot creature until the harbormaster pulled up to its side.

“You got to be really careful there have been stories of people being hurt trying to unentangle marine life,” Ciarametaro said.

The harbormaster carefully began using a boat hook to push on the line that was wrapped around the whale’s tail and fin.

He said he was amazed to see the method work so quickly.

According to Ciarametaro, the whale managed to wiggle out the line about 30 minutes later.

Ciarametaro said he believes Captain Karvelas is the one who really saved the day. Karvelas had proceeded on with his whale watch tour, but was elated to get a phone call with the good news.

“It brought a lot of joy to me,” explained Karvelas. “It was pretty amazing.”

Karvelas said he first called the Whale Disentanglement Network, which is located near Provincetown. He said it would’ve taken them a while to get to Gloucester.

Harbormaster Ciarametaro, who previously served active duty on the U.S. Coast guard for 11 years, said he’s proud to add whale rescuer to his resume. He also pointed out how dangerous this type of rescue can be.