Endangered Right Whale Rescued from Fishing Gear off Campobello Island

Aug 17, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

The ordeal took five long hours, but a team of wildlife advocates succeeded in saving the life of a rare North Atlantic right whale who was severely entangled in a massive amount of fishing gear over the weekend.

According to a report from Castanet, the six-year-old male North Atlantic right whale was spotted in his entanglement in the Bay of Fundy by a vessel from the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station. This is near the Canada-U.S. border.

"The juvenile whale had line wrapped multiple times around its head, back and both flippers," the Campobello Whale Rescue team explained.

"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."

Fortunately for the gentle mammal, rescuers saw him and alerted the New England Aquarium boat nearby. In the boat were right whale researchers. Then, the volunteer Campobello Whale Rescue Team was also summoned.

The Campobello group consisted of two fishermen, a whale scientist and a retired fisheries manager. They were all perched on a 24-foot inflatable rescue boat as they worked on freeing the right whale.

They were also joined by lobstermen and scallopers Joe Howlett and Mac Green, who hopped on a rescue Zodiac with New England Aquarium whale researcher Moira Brown and retired Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans manager Jerry Conway.

This rescue team tracked the whale by attaching a long control line with a buoy to the entanglement. Each time the whale surfaced, they reached towards him with another long pole with a blade at the end so they could snip away at the mess of marine rope surrounding the creature. It was tedious work, but the rescuers were eventually able to cut away most of the 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," the Campobello team said.

According to the Defenders of Wildlife, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the rarest marine mammals with its western population only around 450 individuals. Although sightings suggest that this number may be rising, the species remain critically endangered.

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