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A whale of a rescue

The whale was freed after a five-hour-long rescue in the Bay of Fundy by the Campobello Whale Rescue Team that included two fishermen, a whale scientist and a retired fisheries manager in a 24-foot, inflatable rescue boat.

Rescuers say the six-year-old male North Atlantic right whale was first spotted entangled in a tremendous amount of gear near the Canada/U.S. border by a vessel from the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station.

That group called in a nearby New England Aquarium boat carrying right-whale researchers, which stood by the 40-45 foot plankton feeder.

The volunteer Campobello Whale Rescue Team was then called.

Lobstermen and scallopers Joe Howlett and Mac Green left their work and joined New England Aquarium whale researcher Moira Brown and retired Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans manager Jerry Conway on board a rescue Zodiac and sped off about 30 miles to the scene.

Rescuers say they encountered one of the most severely entangled whales that any of them had ever seen over many decades of working on the water.

“The juvenile whale had line wrapped multiple times around its head, back and both flippers. The 5/8 inch polyblend line even ran through the whale’s baleen or its giant filtering plates that hang from its upper jaw. In addition, two orange, polyester flotation balls were cinched to its body, just behind the blowholes,” explained the Campobello team.

The whale rescue crew attached a long, control line with a buoy at its end so that they could track the whale when it dove.

For five hours, they repeatedly looked for the whale to surface, then approached it and used a long pole with a blade on its end to cut away pieces of the marine rope.

Rescuers reportedly did this dozens of times, first removing line from the head, then the left flipper and eventually the remainder of the body.

A ball of knotted rope and the two buoys remained attached to the right flipper. On their last approach of the day, they were able to make a final cut and retrieve that gear.

“A short amount of line remains in the baleen, but the rescuers were fairly confident that the young whale would be able to shed it over time. Free of its web of marine gear, the whale sped off,” said the Campobello team..

New England Aquarium right-whale scientists, working for the summer out of nearby Lubec, Maine, had identified the whale as #4057, which had yet to be named.

#4057 was born in the winter of 2010 off the southeastern U.S.

In 2014, it had been freed from another marine gear entanglement off of Georgia.

On Sunday after the rescue, the Campobello/Georgia connection was not lost on the whale researchers.

They decided to name #4057 after Campobello’s most famous resident ever, who also had nearly died there one summer and shared an affinity for spending winters in the warmer waters of Georgia.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) contracted polio at Campobello in the summer of 1921.

FDR would go on to spend many winters in Warm Springs, Georgia where he established a treatment centre for that crippling disease.

“Researchers hope that this whale, facing life-threatening physical challenges, has the good fortune of its namesake and survives and goes on to contribute to the recovery of the most endangered large-whale species in the Atlantic,” wrote the Campobello team.



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