Whale rescuers free humpback from fishing gear entanglement

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — A three-day effort to free a humpback whale from entanglement in fishing gear succeeded this week, marine mammal experts said Thursday.

The whale, identified as a mature female named Valley, was first spotted Monday by a whale watch boat on Stellwagen Bank northeast of Provincetown, according to a statement from the Center for Coastal Studies.

The center’s entanglement response team found that the whale had a heavy line lodged in its mouth, but because sea conditions were poor, it could not be freed.

The whale moved about 25 miles north to waters outside Boston Harbor, where it becomes entangled in more gear anchored to the seafloor with just enough slack to swim in small circles. A lobster boat reported its position and the rescuers deployed again.

The crew on Wednesday used a hook-shaped knife at the end of a 30-foot pole to cut the rope anchoring the whale to the seafloor, then tied buoys to the rope in its mouth, and the remaining entanglement was pulled free.

Valley swam away.

It appears that Valley had been entangled for weeks or months, the center said, adding that the mammal’s prognosis is good.