Rescue effort for Humpback Whale NYC0071 from CCS and USCG off Long Beach, NY.
On Sunday November 12th, 2017, the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) was off the Long Island Coast, specifically Lido West and Long Beach this weekend and here’s why.
I was out on the SHIP OF FOOLS November 3rd and met up with a Humpback Whale. I got a great fluke shot, looked at it on the camera, it didn’t look familiar. Being the curator of the NYC Humpback Whale Catalog for Gotham Whale, I have all the fluke photos. I looked through them and no match. This is a new whale, it is now numbered NYC0071 and here are the Fluke and Dorsals right and left.
I got home and am looking at all the photos in detail on the computer, I noticed that NYC0071 was entangled in fishing gear! Immediately I call the CCS MARE Director Scott Landry and Paul Sieswerda Director of Gotham Whale, I described NYC0071’s condition and sent over pictures. CCS then informs “ALL” who needs to know about the entanglement, everything is cover with that. He also asks if I could not involve the press and keep this as quiet as I can, I obliged.
NYC0071’s condition - Good news for NYC0071 is that its big and fat! It is lunge feeding, breaching, its tail is free, and its pectoral fins look to be clear. It is doing everything a normal humpback would do. Bad news for NYC0071 is that the fishing gear is wrapped at least once around its Rostrum (roof of its mouth upper jaw) across the blow hole and is deep in its mouth by the hinge of its jaw. It’s not trailing much rope or netting. This whale looks to be entangled for some time because there are healed rope scars on its rostrum and jaw.
From NOV 3rd to Nov 11th I went looking for NYC0071, found the whale and update CCS and GW on the condition via email and phone. On Thursday November 9th I got a call that the CCS team was coming down to help NYC0071 get free of its fishing gear and should be here by Sunday, November 12th and will be pushing off the dock in the morning around 7am.
Its Sunday, November 12th, and CCS MARE is here!! The CCS MAER team is in an inflatable boat with a 20hp engine. On the MAER inflatable are Scott Landry manning the motor and Bob Lynch in the front manning the pole with the knife and a grappling hook attached to an Anchor Buoy. The USCG and I running coverage from passing boats, on lookout for the whale and directing the CCS MAER team to the location of NYC0071. On the USCG Vessel are the USCG members along with Maria Harvey of CCS MAER Team, I am solo on the SHIP OF FOOLS documenting the day.
The ocean conditions were perfect, waves 0ft-1ft, glassy and no wind. It was too perfect! There were so many boats out fishing, like…500 boats from Jones Beach to East Rockaway inlet and all were fishing for Striped bass. Where the bunker is, the Bass, the Whales and the fisherman are. NYC0071 was right in the mix of the fishing boats and as you know not all people have common sense. And that’s why the USCG and I were there for, to block the few from driving over NYC0071 or getting in the way of the rescue effort of NYC0071.
Quickly the rescue teams found NYC0071 and CCS went to work trying to help cut the rope off the whale. The inflatable was close, very close all-day long. There were two plans of attack to get this whale free. One was the knife on the pole tactic and that was what they were doing most of the day. The other was the grapple with an anchor buoy, where the grapple is thrown and hooks onto the dragging fishing gear. It tires the whale out, so they can get close and might help to loosen the gear and disentangle the whale.
Hours went by with many attempts to catch the rope on top of NYC0071. All the while the whale traversed in and out of fishing boats lunge feeding along the way. Back and forth many times from the shallows on the beach to 35 feet on the outside and East to West from between Long Beach and Lido West.
At 3:45pm NYC0071 slipped out of sight, this time for a good amount of time. I charged to the west looking and locating 4 other whales, the USCG doing the same to the east. The inflatable went to the beach to see if NYC0071 was there. NYC0071 ended up giving all of us the slip!
The sun was setting, and due to the unfavorable weather forecast for our area the CCS MAER team went home…The rescue effort for NYC0071 has ended. On one of the last attempts Bob did catch the rope with the knife either partially cutting or fully cutting one of the ropes. This is very good news because the rope may now have less tensile strength and break sometime in the future or the rope is cut.
Thank you for what you do, it was an incredible attempt and effort by the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies and the United States Coast Guard on NYC0071!!!
You want to help whales out here in NYC and Long Island? If you are out in the waters off NYC and Long Island or on the beach and see a Whale, take a picture and send it in. Help Gotham Whale out with their WANTED PROGRAM. It may not seem to be a big deal but the information really helps us out AND there's a beer in it for you! Read here Gotham Whale Wanted Program