Northeast
Walter Wasowski

Video: Sailor Helps Save Minke Whale Trapped In Fishing Gear Off Rockport, MA

An 18 foot Minke whale is alive and swimming free somewhere off Cape Ann, thanks in part to a retired Navy officer.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what it was at first,” says Walter Wasowski, who’s retirement hobby is now his 46-foot sailboat. “But I said ‘Oh! It is obviously in trouble.’”

He’s talking about last Thursday, when he and his girlfriend set sail for Maine out of Rockport, Massachusetts, and spotted the whale breaching in erratically in the same spot – over and over again.

“And I realized it was trapped somehow,” he told WBZ-TV.

Trapped in some sort of fishing gear, perhaps.

So, the 73-year-old sailor notified the Rockport Harbormasters.

“I knew there was nothing I could do about it,” says Wasowski, “and it was just a question of whether there was somebody else who could.”

“It’s a big win for the whale,” says Harbormaster Rosemary Lesch.

A “big win” because the harbormasters summoned NOAA’s Marine Animal Entanglement Response team, which was on scene within hours, and shot an underwater assessment video.

It showed the Minke wrapped in the almost certain death grip of several buoy lines hooked to 20 lobster pots.

A whale was rescued from fishing gear in Rockport (Image credit: NOAA)

The whale was about two miles out from shore.

The rescue team began their work in a small inflatable boat, but switched to a bigger vessel when the mammal started thrashing – and a hungry visitor showed up.

“It was reported to us that a great white shark was coming up around the entangled whale,” says Harbormaster Lesch.

But before the predator could move in for the kill, the NOAA team freed the Minke – using long poles with knives mounted on the ends – and the whale speedily swam away from double danger.

“But this whale would have perished if it remained out there any longer,” says Harbormaster Scott Story.

As Walter Wasowski prepped his sailboat Tuesday night named “Island Bound” for the jaunt back home to Rhode Island, the retired Navy man was humble about his helping hand – even as he admired the happy ending.

Walter Wasowski (WBZ-TV)

“It was certainly an interesting trip,” says Wasowski. “Another sea story to tell!”

By the way, the Rockport Harbormasters remind us that whales are protected and it’s illegal to touch them – even in distress.

So call the experts – as Walter Wasowski did – and let them handle it.

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