Scientists attempting to free entangled right whale in Cape Cod Bay
Experts who study North Atlantic right whales in Massachusetts say they're "very concerned" about the health of a whale entangled in ropes in Cape Cod Bay.
A local response team is tracking the whale's location and hopes to make an attempt at freeing her this week.
The young female is one of only about 350 right whales left in the wild. Scientists are particularly concerned about female right whales — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there are fewer than 70 breeding females.
When the young whale in Cape Cod Bay caught the attention of scientists, rope had gotten stuck in her mouth and twisted around her body.
"It's really quite bad," said Scott Landry, director of the Center for Coastal Studies' marine animal entanglement response team.
The response team was able to cut off a couple of hundred feet of line last week. But high winds and rain have thwarted attempts to free her from the rest.
"This will not be like veterinary surgery," Landry said. "So we need really good conditions to go for targets that are very, very small, and very defensible by the whale."
The whale is among the large group of right whales who have migrated to the bay recently.
Whenever there is increased whale activity, regulators instate restrictions, such as requiring boats move at slower speeds or cordoning off sections from fishing. That was the case on Sunday when boat traffic through the Cape Cod Canal was suspended after a mother and her calf entered the channel, according to reporting from WCVB.
Ship strikes are among the leading causes of death for right whales.
The other leading cause of death is rope entanglement. And regulators have attempted to implement bans on certain fishing gear, which researchers found are harmful to right whales. However, these rules faced legal challenges from commercial fishing groups in the last year.