An “entangled” whale watching boat with 157 passengers on board remained at sea overnight and made national news.
While the news originally reported that the vessel was likely snagged in lobster gear, we knew that was doubtful. We know that large whales who get entangled in lobster gear rarely become anchored. Unfortunately, we have plenty of data to support this, including the 13 currently unresolved cases of critically endangered North Atlantic right whales entangled in fishing gear. With only 500 right whales remaining, the loss of even one individual from human causes can jeopardize the survival of the species, yet two new cases of entanglement have already been reported this year. These entanglements can cause chronic and painful injuries. Some of these entanglements will kill the whales, but these entanglements are not making national news. We are happy that the whale watch vessel returned to Boston safely and no passenger injuries were reported. At the same time, we hope that anyone reading about the “entangled” whale watch vessel, or those passengers that survived it, will consider the whales, whose existence depends on the reduction of this very threat. WDC – NA has spent over a decade collecting data and presenting the findings collaboratively to federal policy makers to reduce and eventually eliminate this threat. Every victory has been bittersweet, because for every year it took to get a new regulation passed, at least one North Atlantic right whale died from entanglement. WDC acknowledges that no fishermen in the US is intentionally entangling whales. Our goal is to work with fishermen, through the federally authorized Take Reduction Team process, to protect this critically endnagered species. Support the work we are doing with a $5.00 donation.
This right whale was sighted on June 29, 2014 by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Despite ongoing searches, this whale has not been relocated in order for permitted rescuers to attempt a disentanglement. The orange noted on the whale’s body is a result of an infestation of cyamids, a sign of declining health. The line over the rostrum (face) of the whale has embedded into the whale’s head. We believe the prognosis for this whale’s survival is poor. Image collected under MMPA Research permit number 1058-1733-01 Photo credit: NOAA/NEFSC/Peter Duley