A young humpback whale badly entangled in ropes and already bleeding from great white shark bite escaped the vicious predator with the help of some well meaning scientists.
The distressed animal was stumbled upon by a group of researchers from the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) while the experts were conducting a study that looked at the gases that humpback whales exhale. The whale was found on Stellwagen Bank, a well known feeding area that humpback whales frequent.
The animal was clearly suffering, with ropes tied around its mouth and going all the way down to its tail, wrapping multiple times around it. The scientists described it as being hogtied and unable to move, sitting at the surface and bleeding from a large shark bite on its left flank.
Dr. Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Research at the Center for Coastal Studies, gave a statement saying that she has only seen a shark attack a whale one other time during her career, and that the pervious case was another calf in Hawaii.
She went on to stress that she has never seen it in Provincetown before and added that sharks “are most likely to target incapacitated whales [as in this case], sick individuals and otherwise vulnerable animals”, as free, healthy whales can prove to be quite the adversaries even for great white sharks.
When Dr. Robbins firsts found the humpback whale, she wasn’t sure right away whether or not the animal was in trouble. The aquatic animal was floating with its back towards the surface, which could have easily meant that it was simply resting.
When she finally got closer to the humpback whale she saw the rope, the wound on the dorsal fin and the great white shark that was still circling the immobilized animal. Dr. Robbins mentioned that the humpback whale was very limited in how it could thwart the predator.
In order for the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies to make sure everyone helping is kept at a safe distance from the 15 foot hungry shark, the scientists started to disentangle the whale from aboard IBIS, the organization’s 35 foot rescue vessel, named appropriately after the first whale that the Center for Coastal Studies ever freed.
The scientists managed to cut the rope from the whale’s mouth using hook-shaped knives that they attacked to long poles. Once those fell off of the animal, it was able to correct its posture, which initially resembled the letter “C”, and return to a horizontal position.
Scott Landry, director for the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team, gave a statement of his own, informing the great white shark quickly lost interested in the young humpback whale after its mouth was freed, and swam away.
The team then sent a small inflatable boat to continue taking off the rest of the rope. They made several cuts of the part that was keeping the whale’s tail locked in place, and eventually the animal was able to slip out of the entanglement.
Director Landry mentioned that this particular whale was very lucky as the shark would have absolutely killed it he and the rest of his colleagues had not helped it get out of the situation. Over the past few decades (since 1984) Marine Animal Entanglement Response team has helped over 200 sea creatures escape certain death, but Landry echoed Dr. Robbins, saying that this was the first time a great white shark was involved.
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