"A lot of people in small boats got killed during [19th century] whaling operations,” says Greg Krutzikowsky, director of whale disentanglement at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts, which oversees disentanglement work up and down the Eastern seaboard. “Our safety record – no deaths or injuries – is due to careful training, protocols, and procedures.”
A lot of whales have been rescued, Mr. Krutzikowsky notes: his institution has saved 97 since 1984, and Greene’s team has freed eight more on the Canadian side of the line.
Green gets calls a couple of times a year, usually from local fishermen who’ve discovered the animals in their gear. But he’s flown as far afield as North Carolina to rescue whales.
His team’s efforts are particularly critical to the survival of the North Atlantic right whale. Scientists say fewer than 400 remain and preventing the deaths of just two adult females each year could make the difference between survival and extinction.
On the US side of the border, whale rescues are hampered by deep cuts in federal funding, but IFAW continues to provide adequate support to the Campobello team.
"The work those guys do is essential to the short term survival of right whales,” says Scott Kraus of the New England Aquarium in Boston who has worked with Greene and is a leading expert on the species. “They are the front line of defense.”