Right Whale Disentagled off P-Town

April 22, 2009 – An entangled humpback whale was freed Monday from a life-threatening entanglement by the Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. The entangled whale was reported by the Dolphin VIII whale watch vessel, which stood by the animal until the PCCS team arrived on the scene aboard the R/V Ibis. PCCS rescuers faced strong winds and rough seas, with the weather forecast calling for gale force winds out of the east, the team moved quickly once they reached the whale north of Race Point in Provincetown. The whale was entangled with line and a buoy, which tightly wrapped the base of its tail. The team attached a series of buoys to the entanglement which pulled all of the gear free. Scarring indicates that the whale was likely entangled for some time before it was discovered. It is unknown where and when the whale initially became entangled, but the gear was recovered and will be turned over to NOAA for analysis. Here's the full story at CapeCodToday.com.

Scientist "Proves" Fish Get Seasick

April 21, 2009 - Dr Reinhold Hilbig, a zoologist from Stutgart, studied the effects of weightlessness in water as part of research into how humans are affected in space. Forty-nine fish in a mini aquarium were sent up in a plane that went into a steep dive, simulating the loss of gravity astronauts encounter in space flight."They completely lost their sense of balance, behaving like humans who get seasick," said Dr. Hilbig. Here's the full story from Telegraph UK.

Evidence That Lobsters and Crabs Feel Pain

March 29th, 2009 - Soft-hearted lobster and crab lovers have long avoided feelings of guilt about boiling or steaming the creatures alive in the belief that they don't feel pain. That comforting thought is being challenged by research conducted by Robert Elwood and Mirjam Appel of Queen's University in Belfast. Elwood and Appel collected hermit crabs from nearby tide pools. They gave small electric shocks to some of the crabs within their shells. When the researchers provided vacant shells, some crabs - but only the ones that had been shocked - left their old shells and entered the new ones, showing stress-related behaviors like grooming of the abdomen or rapping of the abdomen against the empty shell. Here's the full story from Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News.

Right Whales off P-Town

March 27, 2009 - An estimated 80 right whales, nearly 25% of the species' total population, are engaging in a feeding frenzy off Provincetown. Zooplankton are out there in record numbers - it's their favorite food. People visiting Herring Cove have been able to see the whales from the beach. More whales are expected as the waters warm up and a new influx of plankton arrives. Here's more:

Killer Whales in Gulf of Mexico

March 25, 2009 - From AP - It was a fish story that even veteran boat captains found fascinating: As many as 200 killer whales feeding on tuna in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. "It was like being at Sea World because they'd come right up to the boat," said Eddie Hall, captain of the Shady Lady, the 60-foot charter boat that spotted the shiny black sea beasts with white eye patches and undersides. "It was pretty neat." Here's the full story.

Right Whale Sedated and Freed from Entanglement

On Friday, March 6, 2009, NOAA Fisheries Service and its Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Team partners successfully used sedation to assist a severely entangled North Atlantic right whale – one of five entangled right whales identified off the southeast United States this calving season. This is the first time in worldwide history a free-swimming large whale was successfully sedated in the wild according to experts at NOAA Fisheries Service and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The implications of this are far reaching as successful sedation can provide safer working conditions for humans and whales, and decrease the amount of time crews invest in pursuing and attempting to rescue entangled whales.

This whale was first sighted with entangling ropes off the Georgia coast by a Wildlife Trust aerial survey team on January 14, 2009. A Georgia Department of Natural Resources crew responded immediately via boat to assess the whale’s condition, attach a tracking buoy, and remove 560 feet of trailing rope. The whale was still severely entangled, so disentanglement teams attempted to assist this whale again on January 22 and 23, February 1, and March 5. The animal proved to be very evasive making it difficult for the teams to approach the whale to cut the entangling ropes during these attempts. After a sedation team successfully administered sedatives to the whale on March 6, the disentanglement team was able to safely approach the severely injured right whale to remove an additional 380 feet of rope.

Disentanglement team and veterinarian partners included NOAA Fisheries Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Coastwise Consulting, Inc., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Florida, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, New England Aquarium, Wildlife Trust and the United States Coast Guard.

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Trust. Sketch by Scott Landry, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. See more images and video here