Wildlife Officials Try Saving Entangled Whale off US Coast

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A young North Atlantic right Whale is being closely monitored after wildlife officials pulled in all efforts to rescue the animal from entangled web of fish lines off the Florida coast. The whale is believed to have been carrying the line for thousands of kilometers from its summer feeding ground near Nova Scotia.

The North Atlantic right whale is Canada’s most endangered species. There are probably just 400 of them left in the waters and most spend the summer and fall in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine feeding and breeding. They then migrate to the southeast U.S., off the Atlantic coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida during the winter and falls.

Scientists believe that the entangled whale must have also come from somewhere in Nova Scotia and was spotted at Dayton beach on Christmas day by a Florida state biologist. The whale was traced as a right whale, a 10 metre long juvenile probably born in late 2008 or early 2009.

Several U.S. conservation agencies then, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida’s state wildlife department used helicopters and boats to track and untangle the whale from at least 50 metres of rope, and equipments from fishing nets and lobster traps.

Jamish Smith disentanglement co-ordinator with NOAA said on 31st December,

“We were very concerned about this whale, as the entangling ropes appeared to be life-threatening. However, given the efforts of the disentanglement team, we are optimistic the whale may shed the remaining ropes on its own, so we will continue to monitor its condition via aerial surveys and intervene again if necessary.”

NOAA noted that “because of the speeds at which the animals move and distances they travel, it sometimes takes days or even weeks under ideal weather and oceanographic conditions to safely and successfully free an entangled whale.”

But with the joint efforts of conservation agencies including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the New England Aquarium, the rescue mission was accomplished in just a day.

The North Atlantic right whale is named so because it was believed to be the easiest or the ‘right’ whale for hunting. The whale’s number in recent years has receded considerably because of human-animal conflict.

Entangling to fishing gears is one of the biggest threats for North Atlantic right Whale. A close second is ship strikes both in Canada and the US. In recent years though both countries have made efforts to minimise the hazards.

In 2009 NOAA had warned that fishing gears got entangled to the whales on their northern migration route via the southeast US coast and the numbers were rising. Since then certain kinds of fishing equipments were prohibited.

The Canadian government too is currently funding a $120,000 project with the World Wildlife Fund and East Coast fishermen to reduce the accidental entanglement of whales in the Bay of Fundy and surrounding waters off southwest Nova Scotia.

The Canadian government also expanded the ‘critical habitat’ of the species to the Roseway Basin, north of Nova Scotia in 2009. Although environmentalists hailed the decision, there were still concerns of possible fishing gear entanglement even then.

“More than 75 per cent of right whales have scars indicative of an entanglement in fishing gear at some time in their lives,” Rachel Plotkin, a David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst, said at the time.

“Clearly, the whales are being impacted by us, and we therefore have the power and the responsibility to make the appropriate changes to our activities.”

– Atula, Staff Writer


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About the Author

Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called indiasendangered.com.

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