June
16th 2009
Fishing Dangers for Whales

Posted under news

On most whale watches from the Northeast US, one of the many things that the naturalists will talk about is the danger to whales posed by fishing gear. Entanglement is a huge issue for whales and it is estimated that in the Stellwagen Bank area, 70% or more of the humpback whales bear scars from encounters with fishing gear. Efforts are ongoing to reduce the impact that fishing gear has on whales (like replacing floating line with sinking line), but the perfect solution has not yet been found.

Because minke whales are so fast moving and not as active at the surface as humpbacks, they are discussed less up in these parts. That made this story out of Canada about an entanglement injury on a minke whale very interesting to me. Take a look at the photos with the story to see the scar cutting right across the whale’s rorqual pleats. It is remarkable that this whale survives and has adapted to be able to feed despite the injury.

I’ve not had the misfortune of coming across an entangled whale while out on a whale watch. In this part of the world, whale watch boats that come across entangled whales are asked to both report them to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and wait with the whale until help arrives. Hopefully, as fishing gear adapts and is replaced, as ghost gear is removed from the ocean, injuries such as what happened to this minke, and has happened to hundreds of other whales, can become much less common.

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