Coast Guard assists in whale rescue attempt

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Coast Guard and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have been attempting to rescue a humpback whale entangled in fishing line off the Coast of North Carolina and Virginia since Monday.

The 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Elm, a seagoing buoy tender, the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Block Island home ported in Atlantic Beach, N.C., and two 47-foot motor lifeboat crews from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, N.C., assisted response efforts with members of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network including NOAA Fisheries’ Beaufort Lab and Duke University, and the Provincetown, Mass., Center for Coastal Studies.

The animal’s entanglement is considered life threatening, and it has likely been entangled since the summer season. The last known whereabouts of the whale indicate that the animal was moving in a northwesterly direction towards Hampton Roads area.

Whale disentanglement is an extremely risky operation. The Coast Guard advises all mariners to not approach or attempt to remove any gear, lines, or buoys from the whale as this could potentially endanger your vessel and crew and hamper future disentanglement responses. Intentional close approach or harassment of whales is prohibited by law.

“The entanglement has proven to be very difficult, from the timing of the report to the severity and complex of the actual entanglement on the whale. It is only through partnerships with other agencies and organizations that make this difficult task possible,” said Jamison Smith, Large Whale Disentanglement Coordinator.

Please report sightings to the Coast Guard or NOAA Fisheries at (800) 900-3622 or to the Coast Guard via Channel 16. The animal’s injuries are deemed life threatening, and NOAA and Coast Guard personnel are in close coordination should the whale be re-sighted and environmental conditions and logistics present themselves suitable for a disentanglement response. At this point, the Coast Guard and NOAA welcome sightings from mariners and we remain vigilant to respond to all stranded and entangled animals.

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