Last summer on August 8th some folks were out on a whale watch about 4 miles off of Rockport MA. They witnessed something interesting; a Humpback whale calf had become entangled in some lobster pot line. Luckily the rope broke, and the calf meandered away.

This event was notable for a key reason. The rope that broke was specially designed to break. In May 2021, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) implemented a new regulation that all vertical lines in state waters must be equipped with low-tensile rope that breaks with 1,700 lbs of force (about half the force of standard marine rope). Better yet, the rigging was recovered by the whale watch vessel, and the DMF was able to study how and where the rope broke to help validate this approach.

Indeed, the low-tensile rope worked as promised and you can read the DMF’s findings in this report. We here at Ketcham Supply are proud to be the supplier of the NOAA-approved low-tensile rope. It is fortuitous that this event was witnessed live, and we are very happy that things worked out – particularly for the calf!

It is important to note that there is hard work and diligence that is behind these success stories. So kudos to Amy Knowlton, Timothy Werner and the team at the New England Aquarium who studied entanglements and developed the requirements for break-away rope. You can appreciate how thorough and complex the work was in this 2016 study.