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Recent Whale Entanglement Supports Need for Management Action

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Fin whale.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

On July 1, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada launched an aerial search for a severely injured North Atlantic right whale, believed to be in Canadian waters. The whale, spotted on June 29 by NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center aerial survey team, appeared to be entangled in multiple lines and in poor overall condition. It was among a group of about two dozen right whales, approximately 180 nautical miles east of Provincetown, Mass., too far for a U.S. ship-based disentanglement team to respond.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest and most endangered large whales in U.S. waters. NOAA Fisheries is working to reduce risks to these animals and other large whales (humpback, sei, fin and smaller whales like minke whales) posed by trap/pot fishing operations. A range of measures are in place to reduce these risks, and revisions to these measures were announced just last week

The revisions further reduce the amount of vertical line in the water, better tailor closure areas, and improve gear-marking requirements useful in determining where and in what fishery an entanglement occurred.

“We realize that complying with the requirements also costs the fishing industry time, money, and sometimes efficiency. Where we could, we tried to adjust new measures to mitigate costs while still providing needed protections to whales,” said David Gouveia, acting assistant regional administrator, Protected Resources, Greater Atlantic Region, NOAA Fisheries. “However, this incident is a grim reminder why these management measures are needed and the cost to an endangered species if we fail.”

While it may not be possible to relocate and save this particular right whale, collaborative efforts can save entangled whales. In early June, a Bar Harbor whale watch vessel was able to assist a rescue team in the successful disentanglement of a humpback whale. The whale watch vessel provided important location information that enabled a rescue team to easily find and help the animal.  

“Further, the new management measures, developed with the help of fishermen, state fishery managers and others, should reduce the risk of future entanglements,” added Gouveia. “If we continue to work together, I believe there will be fewer and fewer reports of entangled whales with serious injuries along our coasts.”

To report an entangled, dead or injured whale in the

Greater Atlantic Region (Maine to North Carolina): 1-866-755-NOAA (6622)

Southeast Region (North Carolina to Florida includes the Gulf of Mexico):

The WHALE HELP hotline should be used to report dead, injured or entangled whale and right whale sightings: 1-877-WHALE HELP (1-877-942-5343) 

In Southeast Region to help marine mammals in trouble you can use your smartphone http://1.usa.gov/1b1kqfv

To report harassment of a whale, dolphin, seal or sea turtle please contact our Office of Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.

Even more information!

Click here for more information on how to report an entangled animal.

Guide to reporting Whale Sightings.

Click here for “safe whale watching guidelines.”

More information on what to do if you see a stranded animal.

For more information on WhaleSense program click here.