A whale rescue in the Port of New York City


Over the past decade the sightings of whales in the New York City Coastal waters has increased considerably.   The once rare sightings of large whales such as the Humpback, Minke, Fin and North American Right Whale has become very common.  And with the increase of whale population has been whale strandings.  Whales are getting caught in fishing nets and other debris found way too often in our offshore waters.  What used to be a problem once or twice a year is now happening 12 to 14 times  a year.

Fortunately a non profit organization was formed to combat this problem in 2016.   The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS) mission is promoting marine conservation through action.  The AMSEAS works to engage the public and provide the public information about the whales, dolphins, seals, and sea turtles that share the NY Bight habitat and the threats that they encounter within these waters.  Having noticed increase in large whale events, they have recommended many preparations to both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) for future large whale events.

They got a great chance to show their stuff on July 27th of 2020 when the NOAA reported a distressed whale near the Ambrose Channel the major shipping channel for both the New Jersey and New  York City Ports.  When the AMSEAS arrived at the whale’s location they found a humpback whale floating low in the water with only its rostrum (tip of upper jaw) and blowhole clearing the surface for short periods  of time, bearly allowing the whale to breathe.

Cautiously approaching the whale, they discovered the 4 year old calf was dragging a mass of rope encircling the base of the whale’s tail stock, with a cluster of small orange buoys wrapped tightly against the animal.  The second day of observation revealed a section of trawl gear binding the animal to the floor of the sea 70 feet below with a steel cable mixed into the net and line.  The whale had to rise and fall to breathe and later verified that the whale was lifting 3800 pounds of gear.

The third day a 3 man crew in a 13 foot inflatable boat with specialized tools consisting of grapples, razor sharp knives, safety knives on long poles and Norwegian buoys arrived and proved promising albeit a slow process.  Having to stop during darkness they returned the second day to finish the job with additional boats and crews to lift the debris from the whale’s tail.

Finally before sunset Scott Landry, CCS’ director of Marine Animal Entanglement Response, proclaimed the whale was free and joyous that they have continued to have saved every whale they have attempted to save since their organization start.  Hopefully they will be able to retain that distinction for  a time when the seas will be clear of trash!

Reference: Robert Digiovanni  “The Conservationist”

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