Our team sighted an entangled right whale yesterday afternoon in our sighting area (30 26N -081 11W). The whale was later identified as Catalog #3294 (Find out more by searching for that whale on the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog).
Kara and I were flying the southern part of our survey when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a whale about one mile north of us. We broke from our track line and headed for the whale. As we approached, we noticed a very long piece of fishing line (approx. 350 ft) trailing behind the whale. Our team reacted quickly; Kara grabbed the camera and began photographing the whale and the trailing fishing line; I took a position of the whale and immediately called our ground contact, Jess; our pilots, Ken and Holly, kept an eye on the whale and circled overhead while keeping an eye out for other aircraft.
I gave Jess all the information I could about the whale, the time and location, what the entanglement looked like, the color of the line, the whale's behavior, the weather conditions (in case a disentanglement effort was launched), our endurance...etc. Kara reviewed her images to get a better idea of what the line was doing on the whales body. Our images show there is line wrapping around the whale's head and body and there appears to be fresh peduncle scars that may be from this entanglement. Jess was busy. She now had to call a list of people including the state and federal right whale coordinators.
The whale moved almost true north 4 miles while we photographed it! The whale was racing diving - A forceful and fast dive in which the flukes are typically lifted out of the water at a shallow angle. Racing dives are often observed in a quick series with each dive being performed after a single respiration. Photographing proved to be arduous, but that did not stop Kara. She managed to photograph every part of the whale that was visible and even the 350+ ft of line that was trailing behind it! Kara's images allowed entanglement specialist to get a better idea of the entanglement and its severity.
The weather conditions were too poor for a disentanglement effort to be launched yesterday. All the survey team are aware of the entangled whale and we are hoping to see it again when we can deploy a research vessel to attempt to disentangle the animal.
1) Eg #3294. The body and head wrap visible.
2) Eg #3294. Head, body wraps and peduncle scars visible.
3) Eg #3294. Fresh peduncle scars.
4) The bitter end of the 350+ft long fishing line trailing the animal.