A badly entangled North Atlantic right whale that has been stuck in Cape Cod Bay for several days was still being monitored on Saturday.
The Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team has been working to help the animal after she was discovered feeding in the bay within a large aggregation of right whales on Wednesday.
The team was able to remove 200 feet of heavy rope from the whale on Wednesday, but she remains entangled.
“This is obviously a difficult situation," Scott Landry, director of MAER, said in a statement. "We worked very hard for this whale on Wednesday and she did all she could to avoid us.”
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The MAER team hopes there will be good weather conditions to allow them another opportunity to attempt the difficult and complicated disentanglement.
The whale, identified as #4545, was first discovered entangled south of Nantucket in February by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. At the time, she had a long length of heavy rope caught through her mouth. Since then, the entanglement has developed into a "highly complex and lethal one, with multiple wraps around her body and likely also her flippers."
The whale is one of about 350 remaining right whales. The critically endangered whales are protected under federal law, which prohibits boats from getting too close and requires speed restrictions in certain areas, including Cape Cod waters.
There are seasonal speed restrictions in effect for Cape Cod Bay from March 1 to April 30 that require vessels to stay at 10-knots or slower. Those restrictions can be extended if the whales remain in the waters longer.
This entanglement case highlights the continuing need to find a reduction in the amount of rope in whale habitats, according to Landry.
“Whales can pick up gear from anywhere within their range and drag it around for weeks and months. Their range is huge, stretching from Canada to Florida," Landry said. "Using disentanglement as a tool for conservation is helpful but has its limitations. We have no control over when or where an entangled whale will be discovered.”