BOSTON (Reuter) - Vessels were searching the waters off Massachusetts Tuesday hoping to find and free a rare 50-ton whale that became entangled in a web of fishing gear.
"There are fewer than 300 northern right whales left. It's a species near extinction," said Peter Borrelli, executive director of the non-profit Center for Coastal Studies based in Provincetown, Massachusetts. "We have rescuers standing by."
Borrelli said a whale-watching vessel from Gloucester first spotted the tangled 40-foot long whale in the Stellwagen Bank of Massachusetts Bay Monday. Other mariners also reported seeing the whale, but a Coast Guard helicopter was unable to locate the mammal after several hours of searching.
Harvesting the northern right whale stopped in the 1930s, but the population has not rebounded.
"They are slow moving and susceptible to ship strikes. About a dozen calves were birthed this year but only half have survived," Borrelli said. "Basically, we'll go anywhere in the North Atlantic to rescue a right whale. We believe each one is important for the species' survival."