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Jul 15, 2019 4:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Whale Escapes Net Entanglement

A whale is entangled in a net off Townline Road in Sagaponack. Michael Wright Michael Wright
Jul 15, 2019 10:08 PM

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.

The Atlantic Marine Conservation Society said on Monday evening that it's possible the whale still has some of the fishing net tangled around it and asked that the public report any new sightings of the whale by calling the NYS Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829.

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.

The small humpback whale entangled in a fishing net off Sagaponack apparently freed itself from the net not long after good Samaritans cut away portions of it that had been wrapped around its tail.

The whale stopped surfacing to breathe shortly before a U.S. Coast Guard boat arrived off Sagaponack with scientists from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society aboard. After searching for the vicinity the whale had been in for at least three hours previously, Southampton Town Bay Constables inspected the fishing net the whale had been tangled in and determined that it had broken free and swum away.

ORIGINAL STORY: Monday 3 p.m.

Good Samaritans and marine rescuers are trying to cut a small whale free of a fishing net near Townline Beach in Sagaponack.

The whale, which witnesses said looked to be a small humpback, became tangled in the net just a few hundred feet off the beach on Monday while it was feeding on schools of baitfish that have been lingering near shore.

“We were watching it feeding over here and then it swam into the net … and started rolling around and thrashing,” said Moses Barton, who was at Townline Beach with his family. “We could see it coming up with the net across its face and pectoral fin.”

Two beachgoers paddled out to the whale with knives and tried to cut it free—with only limited success.

“It was wrapped all around him and he was spinning and getting wrapped up in it more and more,” said Aaron Warkov, one of the men who paddled out to the whale on surfboards. “We got most of the net off his backside and his tail. There was still some going over his breather hole and his head and one of his fins. We cut a major piece of the float-rope off his tail.

“We were making two or three inches of progress at a time,” he added. “Each time he’d come up for a breath, we’d cut a little bit more off. But we didn’t want to get in the water with him because there’s a lot of net in the water and one of us could drown.”

The net the whale was entangled in appeared to be a gillnet set in the surf by commercial fishermen to catch striped bass and bluefish. It was connected to two buoys, one of which had a tall black flag attached to it.

Southampton Town Bay Constables were on the scene monitoring the whale’s location and the U.S. Coast Guard was bringing marine rescuers from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society to try and cut the rest of the net away.

The AMCS, which is the official marine mammal rescue organization for the Northeast, issued a statement on Monday afternoon warning the public not to approach the whale, for their own safety and the animal's.

"As this is a live animal, every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of responders and public must be taken," the statement reads. "Disentanglement procedures are extremely dangerous. AMCS urges the public, including swimmers, surfers, and boaters, to keep a minimum distance of at least 150 feet at all times for safety as well as to not stress the animal and cause further harm. Whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it is illegal to approach them. Whales in distress can also be dangerous, as they are unpredictable and very powerful."

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These fishing nets are all up and down our beaches.Whales have been seen actively feeding offshore this summer. The trustees should demand that the fishing nets be removed. If its not in their purview, then the DEC should do it. Are whales not protected species. If nothing official is done. Then the Citizens Free Willy Association of the Hamptons will do so.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jul 15, 19 5:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
The Trustee's jurisdiction on the ocean beaches ends at the mean high tide mark. The NYSDEC regulates 3 miles off the beach and after that It's federal.
By Just sitting on the taffrail (41), Southampton on Jul 16, 19 12:18 PM
I agree. These nets should be removed.
By wmill (2), water mill on Jul 15, 19 5:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Jul 15, 19 6:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
According to a weekly paper to the east, the whale has freed itself.

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 6:18 PM
According to the update here, the whale "swum away" . . . isn't that swumthin' . . . :)
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 8:22 PM
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jul 15, 19 8:28 PM
V TOMA, give it up. What is your stance on the WHALE???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 6:47 PM
K..Having reading comprehension issues again?...:)
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jul 15, 19 8:53 PM
The gill nets just offshore catch monkfish, a bottom feeder. Whale entanglements are quite rare. Educate yourself before spouting off.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jul 15, 19 10:40 PM
" Spouting off"...cute..Good to know. I guess the whale trapped today was just a fluke?...One too many for my liking.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jul 16, 19 1:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
Total B.S. I've been commercial fishing for 50 years . These nets are killing great white pups, seals, whales, sharks, etc. They should be banned!!!
By mtkfishman (76), montauk on Jul 16, 19 7:38 AM
3 members liked this comment
Don't forget endangered turtles and sturgeon. A young sturgeon about three feet long was found dead on the beach right next to one of these nets on Sunday. Hundreds of these critically endangered fish are killed by gill nets every year....they must be banned. Commercial fishermen can catch striped bass and bluefish in other ways that do not indiscriminately kill endangered fish species or threaten whales, seals and dolphin. That seal that had the net around its neck this spring is certainly dead. ...more
By em (51), sagaponack on Jul 16, 19 7:57 AM
3 members liked this comment
Commercial fishing? Or running a puke barge?
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jul 16, 19 11:04 AM
It's because of climate change, dammit! :D
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Jul 16, 19 1:59 AM
send the bill to the guy that owns the net.
By fishy (92), East Hampton on Jul 16, 19 10:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
The commercial harvest of Striped Bass in New York should move to hook and line only. Without the use of gill nets It would take longer to fill the New York Striped Bass quota but it would limit the by-catch in the nets of untargeted species including whales and sharks.

Once set, how frequently are the nets checked?
By J Gans (4), Southampton on Jul 16, 19 11:30 AM
The gear is checked daily. Setting over night is a relatively new technique for our local fishermen , usually the gear is set in early morning on net at a time and checked in an hour or so , picked up and moved along with the schools of fish. With the incredible health of our ocean and the historic abundance of bunker we have a lot of whales very close to the beach actively feeding , unfortunately there was an interaction between on of the juvenile humpbacks and a net. The net , while torn is not ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 17, 19 5:27 PM
These nets have been out on every single swimming beach from town line to Peters pond to Gibson to Sagg main for the past three weeks. From 75 feet extending to 35 feet from the sand, day and night and week ends. Last Friday and Saturday we saw a large whale swimming over the net at Gibson beach about 65’ or less from shore. Besides voicing concern for the whale getting stranded so near to shore, we very extremely worried for the safety of the hundreds of swimmers on the beaches at the weekend ...more
By Mck (1), Sagaponack on Jul 18, 19 10:52 PM
the nets are anchored and are not a threat to swimmers, unless the swimmer INTENTIONAL[LY decides to swim out to the net and entangle themselves! Get a grip.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 28, 19 7:20 AM