Workers at Portland Yacht Services use a boat lift to haul Chunk, a 40-foot female humpback whale, from the Fore River on Thursday. Photo by Kevin Battle

A dead humpback whale with fishing gear wrapped around its tail was hauled from Casco Bay into Portland Harbor on Thursday.

Known as “Chunk” in the Gulf of Maine and North Atlantic humpback whale catalogs, the 40-foot female was alive when she was first spotted Wednesday off Cape Elizabeth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s at least the second time this whale has been entangled in ropes or nets. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating this incident.

Concern over Chunk’s fate comes as regulators try to protect a dwindling right whale population from entanglements in lobster fishing gear.

Workers at Portland Yacht Services used a massive boat lift to haul the whale out of the Fore River at around 3 p.m. Thursday, said Portland Harbor Master Kevin Battle.

Aaron Doughty secures the dead humpback whale to a trailer after it was hauled out of the Fore River on Thursday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The whale was loaded onto a flatbed truck to be transported to an inland facility for a necropsy to determine a cause of death and disposal, NOAA said.


Marine Mammals of Maine and the Maine Marine Patrol were alerted Wednesday that a whale caught in netting had been spotted off Cape Elizabeth.

“The whale was first observed alive prior to being reported to stranding responders, but was found dead when (the) marine patrol arrived on scene,” NOAA said.

First identified in 2015, Chunk was found later that year severely entangled in heavy rope, which was successfully removed. She had exhibited normal, healthy behavior every year since then, NOAA said.

The whale known to marine scientists as Chunk had been alive when it was first spotted off Cape Elizabeth on Wednesday. Photo by Kevin Battle

The Maine Marine Patrol towed the whale into Portland Harbor from somewhere around Richmond Island, off the coast of Cape Elizabeth, Battle said.

“They were towing it in, under the Casco Bay Bridge, around noon,” Battle said. “Then they had to make arrangements to lift it out of the water.”

Marine Mammals of Maine is leading the examination of the whale with support from members of the Greater Atlantic Region’s marine mammal stranding network.

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