Green Dragon Schooner Captain Al Bezanson, who first alerted GMG to the Minke Whale temporarily grounded at Gloucester Harbor, shares his photos and observations. Ainsley Smith, NOAA’s Marine Animal Response Coordinator, shares information on what to do if you see a whale, dolphin, or seal stranded or in distress. With so many whales currently feeding off our shores, as well as the extreme number of seal deaths, we appreciate Ainsley’s advice.
By the time our Stranding Coordinator arrived at 8:30, we are told that a local resident had moved a large boulder that appeared to be preventing the whale from returning to deeper water. Our Stranding Coordinator, along with the harbormaster, Gloucester animal control officer, and NOAA OLE agent, then searched for the whale throughout the harbor, but were unable to find it again, which is good news! We are hoping the whale made it back to deep water safely.
We appreciate the outpouring of concern for this whale, and understand that it is very hard to watch a whale struggle. We feel the same way, which is why we are in this line of work!
This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that, under federal law, specifically the Marine Mammal Protection Act, only authorized responders are allowed to interact with stranded marine mammals. Often, marine mammals strand because they are in distress, and a trained responder will best know how to evaluate and help the animal. Pushing an animal back into the water may delay treatment or response, and also limits our ability to gather important information to be able to best help. For example, an entangled minke whale was reported near Gloucester last week, so it would have been valuable to examine this whale for injuries and see if it may have been the same one.
Whales in distress can also be dangerous, as they are unpredictable and very powerful. People have been seriously injured or killed trying to help, which is another reason we ask that people wait for trained responders.
The best thing you can do to help a marine mammal in distress is call the NOAA hotline (866-755-6622) or your local stranding response partner, and stand by the animal until help arrives.
Additionally, if people see a marine mammal in an unusual place (like a busy harbor or shallow water), please report it to the hotline so it can be monitored and we can alert people in the area to help keep it safe. We heard several reports yesterday after the stranding that a whale had been seen in the harbor earlier the week, but no one had reported it to us.”