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Entangled minke whale freed from fishing gear off Cape Ann while shark lurked nearby

The Minke whale got tangled up in lobster fishing gear Thursday off the coast of Cape Ann.Rockport Harbormaster

Rescuers freed an 18-foot minke whale entangled in fishing gear off the coast of Cape Ann last week and managed to keep it away from a great white shark that was lurking in the area, officials said.

While National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees and a disentanglement team from the Center for Coastal Studies rescued the 18-foot whale Thursday, the shark started circling the whale, a Rockport harbormaster said.

“A great white shark came along and started harassing the whale. They freed the whale in time and the whale swam off and so did the shark, so the whale was not hurt by the shark. But [the whale] had injuries from the entangling,” said Rosemary Lesch, one of Rockport’s two harbormasters.

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The disentanglement team freed the whale about three hours after a sailor spotted the animal in distress. Walter Wasowski, of Middletown, R.I., was sailing to Maine with his girlfriend when they saw the whale jumping as it tried to free itself from the lobster fishing gear, Wasowski said.

“My girlfriend was watching the whale and kept seeing it jump and noticed [it] was jumping but [it] was in the same space. Then, I noted that [it] was quite near a lobster buoy and I realized [it] must’ve been caught up in the buoy,” Wasowski said.

Wasowski, a Navy veteran, was surprised by how tangled the whale got in the fishing gear.

“Hopefully it’s recovering from its injuries and it won’t get itself into a situation like that again,” Wasowski said.


Alyssa Lukpat can be reached at alyssa.lukpat@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaLukpat.