Monday, March 22, 2010

Dolphins Protect Entangled Humpback from Sharks

By Hardy Jones

Last week my friend Zach McKenna of St. Augustine Eco Tours told me of seeing loads of whales well of the coast of St. Augustine. There were right whales and humpbacks.

Tragically there was a humpback entangled in monofilament fishing line. A team from NMFS tried to disentangle the whale for many hours but was unsuccessful.

Yesterday a fishing boat out of Jensen Beach on the east central coast of Florida spotted a humpback entangled with the line cutting into her flesh. A calf was nearby. A Mako and a hammerhead shark were circling. The mother breached continually, apparently to drive off the sharks.

"(The whale) has polypropylene rope wrapped around its head and pectoral fin and its attached to an anchor," said Captain Patrick Price.

Price said he saw the larger of the two whales breach many times. Then, amazingly, a large pod of about 100 dolphins arrived on the scene. The dolphins circled the whale to protect it from the sharks. The dolphins accompanied the whale for over an hour until Price saw a whale breach a mile to the south. At that point the dolphins headed in that direction.

Captain Price remained on the scene for four hours until a NMFS team arrived on the scene. At 2:45 p.m. sea conditions deteriorated. The NMFS biologist on hand called off rescue efforts to avoid further injuring the whale.

NOAA whale scientist Jamison Smith said that if boaters see a whale in distress they should call call 866-755-6622. A team of biologists trained in handling whale entanglements is on standby.

I phoned Jamison Smith. I’m awaiting a return call as of 1215 Monday. Will report updates.

1 comment:

michelle said...

I'd be interested to learn more about monofilament fishing line - this is terrible. WWF should know about this - they supported the design of new fish hooks that won't capture sea turtles - maybe they can do the same for the whales.

ps. Orcas sounds better than 'killer whales' in my opinion