Rare right whale caught in fishing gear may drown if it isn’t freed

On Nantucket Island, Massachusetts a right whale has been entangled in fishing gear, and it is feared if it isn’t freed soon, the animal may drown. North American right whales are at risk of extinction – only about 400 still exist.

According to WhdhNews, a pod of 60 whales had been spotted late last week  and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urged vessels to slow down to 10 knots or less. Ship strikes have been known to kill or injure whales.

Reduce the amount of vertical lines used in fixed-gear
fisheries in U.S. and Canadian Atlantic waters.
• Implement effective fisheries closures that remove threats
to right whales when they are present.
• Modify fishing gear and practices to reduce the likelihood
and severity of entanglements.
• Enhance fisheries monitoring and require public tracking
of fishing vessels.

The entanglements slow the whales down making it difficult for them to swim, feed and reproduce. Right whales swim very slowly and near the surface. Their skin is dark which makes it difficult to spot. When boats are traveling at normal speeds, it becomes too difficult to maneuver away from them.

“We know right whales are dying from fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes, and with almost 15% of the entire endangered population in this location, they are sitting ducks at risk of injury and death,”Oceana fisheries campaign manager Gib Brogan told CNN.

“We must reduce the number of lines in the water and require ships to slow down with mandatory speed restrictions immediately, before we start seeing carcasses on our beaches.”

It is a federal crime to come within 500 years of the whales. Penalties and fines can go up to $100,000.

For more information about these beautiful animals and how you can help keep them from extinction, please click here.

(Photo Nick Hawkins Oceana)

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