(Nov. 1, 2019) A team from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police rescued a humpback whale that was tangled in fishing gear about 15 miles southeast off the coast of Ocean City last Thursday morning.
Sgt. Andrew Wilson and two other officers were out on a patrol when Wilson overheard a channel 16 call to the Coast Guard from Steve and Lori Insley on board the vessel Glory Days. In the 10:40 a.m. call, the couple reported seeing an entangled whale.
Wilson said he and his team made their way to the reported location and while they were on the way, Capt. Monty Hawkins on the fishing boat Morning Star called to tell the team that he had a specialized tool, a 13-foot custom Spyderco knife, used to free marine mammals from entanglement.
“We could see there were two types of buoys that were some type of fishing gear at one point that were entangled in the tail area of the whale,” Wilson said. “There was another line trailing off that that we didn’t believe was attached to anything.”
Wilson added that the whale tried diving below the surface, but couldn’t dive more than a couple feet. He called Hawkins back and sailed three miles to pick up the whale blade.
“It’s got a blunt tip on the end so that it doesn’t cause injury to the whale,” Wilson said.
Once the team cut the buoys free, the line loosened and the whale swam away seemingly unharmed, according to Wilson.
“Most of the time, when something like this happens, the whale is already deceased or very near to it,” Wilson said.
From his observations, Hawkins believed the fishing gear the whale was caught in was not from any local entity. Though there are regulations for commercial fisheries to minimize the risk of marine mammals getting stuck in fishing gear, it doesn’t eliminate the risk.
Hawkins commended Wilson and his team for freeing the whale.
“If you’re running up on a whale with a boat, it is not a comfortable thing,” Hawkins said. “The whale has the power to slap you around and flip you over.”
He added the Insley’s vital role.
“They reported it and they stayed with it,” Hawkins said. “This is imfportant. If you give a single location to a whale, you don’t know where it’s going to swim to.”
Wilson maintained that the resuce was a team effort.
“We couldn’t have done it without Capt. Monty Hawkins and without Steve and Lori Insley,” Wilson said. “They were the ones on the Glory Days — the vessel that reported it. They stood by and waited for us to get there and stood by when we went out to get the gear from Capt. Hawkins.”