Whale’s Fate Unclear After Freed From Net

OCEAN CITY — The fate of a juvenile humpback whale snagged in a fishing net in the bay north of the Route 50 bridge last week remains unknown.

Around 7:30 p.m. last Thursday, a group of individuals fishing from a boat in the bay north of the Route 50 bridge around 12th Street came upon a juvenile humpback whale stranded in a fishing net. The Good Samaritans called Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) and then began the tedious process of cutting the net away from the 40-foot long humpback whale.

The NRP responded and, together with the individuals who discovered the snagged whale, continued to cut away at the net for a long time until the whale freed itself and swam away. The rescue efforts were halted because of darkness and a nearby storm.

According to National Aquarium officials, the whale had a monofilament net entangled around its mouth, pectoral fins and possibly its tail.

Because the whale remained in danger, the National Aquarium animal rescue team early last Friday morning resumed a search for the endangered whale in the waters in and around the resort area. The search continued throughout the weekend to no avail.

“At the time of the Maryland Natural Resources Police’s initial response, their group along with a nearby group of public citizens were able to remove a good portion of the netting on the animal,” National Aquarium officials said in a statement last Friday afternoon. “While we began our response protocol as soon as the sighting was confirmed, members of the National Aquarium Animal Rescue team were unable to participate in search efforts by boat until 8 a.m. this morning due to weather conditions. Our search for the animal continues at this time.”

On Saturday, there were unconfirmed reports of whale sightings off the resort coast, but there is no indication the whale or whales spotted were the whale rescued last Thursday.

The National Aquarium Animal Rescue team is urging the boating public to report any sightings of the whale, which is likely still in danger. Aquarium officials stressed the importance of anyone spotting the whale to not touch or approach the marine mammal or allow others to do so. Aquarium officials are asking anyone who spots the whale to carefully note the location and time of day and immediately contact the Animal Rescue Team at 410-576-3880.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.