April 18, 2018 11:35 am
Updated: April 18, 2018 11:41 am

Crews hope to free ‘prolific’ female right whale named Kleenex from rope on jaw

Marine mammal experts have warned that this could be the beginning of the end for the whales who were once favoured by hunters who dubbed them the right whales because of their slow-moving, surface-skimming behaviour that made them easy prey.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Center for Coastal Studies

Marine biologists are hoping they can free one of the few remaining female North Atlantic right whales from a length of thick fishing rope that has become wrapped around its upper jaw.

Heather Pettis of the New England Aquarium says the whale – named Kleenex – is one of the most productive of the endangered species, having given birth to eight calves over the last several decades.

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READ MORE: No baby North Atlantic right whales spotted as calving season ends

She says a team managed to nick the rope in two places in waters off Boston, in the hopes that it will weaken the line, break and slip off her.

Bob Lynch was part of the disentanglement crew and says they shot a dart with razor blades at the rope, managing to slice a bit of it as the large whale dipped below the water’s surface.

READ MORE: Concern over endangered North Atlantic right whales, no calves seen in usual areas

Pettis says Kleenex appeared thin, had a concave slump in her back and marks around her blow hole, indicating that she was in poor health.

She says the whale was first seen in 1977 with a calf and is an important part of the species since it’s believed there are only 100 breeding females left in a population of about 430 North Atlantic right whales.at the rope, managing to slice a bit of it as the large whale dipped below the water’s surface.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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