‘Unforgettable’ Humpback Disentanglement Raises Hopes About ‘Weak’ Fishing Rope

As a naturalist leading whale watches out of Gloucester, Jamie McWilliams has seen her share of entangled whales. This past August, a familiar, grim scenario seemed to be unfolding in front of her.

“From a distance — we were probably half-a-mile away — we saw a whale splashing and thrashing at the surface,” she said on a sunny Friday morning aboard a Cape Ann Whale Watch boat. “And it’s: a) acting erratically, and b) you can see the line and the buoy.”

From her perch on the boat, McWilliams identified the entangled whale as the six-to-eight-month-old calf of a humpback named Jabiru. She and her 250 passengers watched the calf struggle with a rope from lobster gear wrapped around its flipper, and more rope threatening to bind its tail. Then, unexpectedly, it began circling the boat.

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