On Monday, July 15, 2019 Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) received a report about a live humpback whale entangled in fishing net offshore in Sagaponack. As live whale entanglements are extremely dangerous, it was critical that AMCS coordinate a response plan with NOAA Fisheries Service, Center for Coastal Studies, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Disentanglement procedures are extremely dangerous, even for those with decades of experience. Working with the various agencies and local authorities to formulate a response plan involving highly trained responders and specialized safety equipment, AMCS also had support from support from Town of Southampton Police, Bay Constable, and USCG Station Shinnecock to get on the water to look for the whale yesterday. Before disentanglement efforts began, the whale had freed itself and was not seen in the area since. It is believed to be free of the fishing net.
Safety is of the utmost importance. Some members of the public paddled out to the whale in hopes of cutting it loose. While we understand what members of the public were trying to do came from a good place, it was an extreme risk that thankfully left them unharmed. Reviewing the incident and studying the netting shows the whale likely freed itself exclusive from those efforts and we urge the public to always keep a distance of 150 feet from these federally protected animals. Their desire to help is not lost on us and is greatly appreciated, but it is critical to let authorized and experienced experts do the work. Great care must also be taken in responses like this as the animals do not realize people are there to help, which can cause stress and more harm. We are continuing to work with our network partners to train our team and other local agencies to assist.
The public is encouraged to report injured and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to the NYS Stranding Hotline by calling 631.369.9829. Sightings of marine wildlife are also helpful and can be shared with AMCS by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.