#17: Two New Entanglement Cases

On September 5th, the Nereid crew sighted an entangled 4 year old male, #4001, 2010 calf of Aphrodite, #1701. This animal had a single wrap of heavy rope over the top of the head and through the mouth. No trailing gear was detected (although the higher sea state precluded a careful look) and it is not known if the flippers are also entangled.

The Campobello Whale Rescue Team was notified and came out to the location but despite a lot of searching, relocation of this animal after it dove proved challenging - all the animals seen that day were on long dives and travelling far distances. Therefore, no disentanglement efforts were carried out. And this animal has not been seen since despite a lot of survey effort in the Bay.

#4001 sighted entangled in the Bay of Fundy
We are concerned about the fate of this animal as at only 4 years old, he is still growing and the line could become embedded and potentially lethal, a pattern we have seen with other right whales with rostrum wraps. To top off this unfortunate news, we learned that on September 4th, a Canadian patrol aircraft sighted a dead, entangled right whale south of Newfoundland well offshore and unable to be retrieved. The carcass was fairly decomposed and will probably not be able to be matched to the catalog.

Both of these events highlight the fact that entanglements are now the biggest concern for this small population (vessel strikes have been much reduced due to effective regulations - see paper link below). These two entanglement cases are the tip of the iceberg for this species - we know that 83% of the population has evidence of entanglement interaction based on scars and many of these animals have been entangled more than once (two animals as many as seven times!). We also know that injuries have become more severe in recent years perhaps a result of changes in fishing distribution and an increase in rope strength. There are likely many more right whales dying from entanglement than are documented and these events occur all along the eastern seaboard where ever fixed fishing gear occurs. There clearly is much more work to be done to better understand and find ways to mitigate entanglements to help this species endure.

To read more about entanglements and vessel strikes, here are two papers that NEAq team members have been involved in:


Ship strikes

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