Metro

Rescuers attempt to disentangle endangered right whale

Center for Coastal Studies rescuers attempted to save a right whale by firing cutting arrows at rope wrapped around it.
Center for Coastal Studies, NOAA permit 18786
Center for Coastal Studies rescuers attempted to save a right whale by firing cutting arrows at rope wrapped around it.

A right whale that was found entangled off Provincetown, with thick rope wrapped around her jaw and over her blowhole, was helped by marine rescuers who hope she will now survive.

The mature female whale was in poor physical condition when she was spotted at Stellwagen Bank Thursday morning by a team taking an aerial survey, said Bob Lynch, rescue assistant for Center for Coastal Studies.

The team shot an arrow from a bow at the rope until they damaged it. Rescuers hope the rope will deteriorate over time and fall off.

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“It’s really challenging because the whale knows the boat is there, and it’s usually sub-surface, so we can’t see exactly where it is,” Lynch said. “Sometimes it takes a long time for rope to break and the animal to shed that line. What we do know is that we definitely helped the chances of survival.”

Right whales are considered a critically endangered species. Their population has been steadily declining, in large part because of entanglement in fishing gear and being hit by boat propellers. The animals come to New England every spring to feed and are often spotted in Cape Cod Bay and surrounding waters.

Laney Ruckstuhl can be reached at laney.ruckstuhl@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laneyruckstuhl.