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Bill Hinkley

Bill Hinkley

Program Director, Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET)

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While most people gazing at the ocean near Chatham have been looking for white sharks, two endangered humpback whales are fortunate that people on the water nearby were looking at them instead.

Two different humpback whales became entangled in heavy lines on July 5 and 6 near the Chatham coast.  Entanglement in fishing gear is a major cause of mortality for whales as lines interfere with feeding and breathing. Long-term entanglements can cause infections.

The highly trained Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies responded to these entanglements and freed the whales. While only trained professionals can disentangle a whale, boaters are the first line of defense for an entangled whale. Reports to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response hotline assured that these severe entanglements did not result in the deaths of the whales.

Mariners should report any entanglement sightings of whales, sea-turtles and other marine animals to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Hotline (1-800-900-3622) or the U.S. Coast Guard and stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.

The Massachusetts Environmental Trust provides financial support to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team. This support is possible because 40,000 Massachusetts drivers have chosen to purchase the right whale license plate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The trust directs proceeds from the plate to programs that protect and restore our aquatic resources.

To learn more:

Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies      

Division of Marine Fisheries right whale program

And to order a whale tail license plate:

Go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles website. Select “plates” then “Order a Special Plate”. After the instruction pages, click through the slide show of plates until you reach the Right Whale. Plates are $40 every two years in addition to regular registration fees.

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