This is real life.

October 28th, 2020.

I arrived home Wednesday morning at 530am after another sixty straight days of ropeless research. Another 4,000 miles on the car, and tracing the nearly exact migration path of a North Atlantic right whale. And while we worked with some of the most experienced and creative pot fishers on the East Coast, the news of two more entangled right whales reached us.

The feelings I go through when another entanglement is reported, in order: sadness, anger, then frustration. After about a day, those feelings settle into a doubling down of determination. It was a new experience for our team to be together, and actively fishing with the gear when this news broke. As heartbreaking as it was, we found a renewed sense of purpose and a reserve of energy that pushed us through the last back-breaking weeks of work. The video below was a product of this process, and all the credit goes to Joel Cohen and videographer, Brad Sawicki. They are not only incredibly resourceful around a boat, but also pretty handy with a camera!

Dragon’s calf, #4680, is only four years old and was spotted off the coast of New Jersey on October 11th. You may remember Dragon from earlier this year when she was found in a group of whales southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts with a rope and buoy lodged in her mouth. Unfortunately, both her condition and behavior leave a reasonable person with little hope that she is still alive.

Dragon on February 24, 2020 as photographed by the
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center aerial survey team

While there are larger, more influential groups researching these gears, we are proud of the way we operate. Our data collection is swift, certain, and powered by one of the most brilliant minds we know, Virgil Zetterlind. Our methods and preparation are second to none. Our desire for understanding and communicating with those whose livelihoods are being directly impacted by the co-occurrence of North Atlantic right whales and pot fisheries is earnest and appreciated. We work hard, all hours of the day and night, for no pay, because we believe that we can make a difference.

You can, too.

We have family, friends, and colleagues that support us with words, actions, and even donations…Without them, this trip would have been impossible. We are always looking for volunteers and partners to help us in this mission. With COVID times upon us, many aren’t able to come haul traps and pots with us in other states, or mount cameras on gear or in traps, or pack bait, or fill ice…but we will gladly hold that spot for you next time.

In the meantime, the best way you can help is to take some time to watch and share some of the material on this blog. Begin conversations in your communities about how you might participate in or fund a trial. Pick up the phone and call a pot fisher you know is affected by this, and give him/her our number, and then buy some local seafood! You can also donate to our Ropeless Research fund, which helps resupply the expendables we need, feeds our volunteers, and helps put gas in the car! Every little bit helps.

#RopelessisReal in the South Atlantic!

October 31, 2020.

-KS

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