Above data appears in map form as published by NOAA’s Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team.
Statistical data available to date indicates that these numbers reflect possibly less than 6% of all North Atlantic Right Whales killed as a result (either direct or indirect) of entanglement in man-made gear. This is a staggering number considering the current known population of the North Atlantic Right Whale numbers a mere 418 individuals.
“Disentanglement is a crutch that’s been leant on for too long, it should not be viewed as a long-term solution to the entanglement crisis” – large whale disentanglement team member, Massachusetts. Quote from Ellie MacLennan’s 2017 paper “Disentangling a Whale of a Problem”
From the 2017 National Report on Large Whale Entanglements:
“Seventy-six confirmed cases of large whale entanglements were documented along the coasts of the United States in 2017. Seventy of these entanglement cases involved live animals and six involved dead animals. All were independently confirmed by the Large Whale Entanglement Response Network.”
The five most frequently entangled large whale species in 2017 included humpback whale, gray whale, minke whale, blue whale, and North Atlantic right whale. Large whale entanglements were reported and confirmed in the waters of 13 states, along all U.S. coasts except within the Gulf of Mexico.
Approximately 70 percent of confirmed cases in 2017 were entangled in fishing gear (line and buoys, traps, monofilament line, and nets)”
2017 National Report on Large Whale Entanglements, NOAA.
Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence these days.
This whale was unable to be completely disentangled, despite the best efforts of the whale watching company (who reported it and stood by the animal) and NOAA’s authorized and highly-trained team. Even when people do everything right, many of these entangled animals can not be freed.
No fisher ever wants or intends to be the cause of these entanglements as they are costly to the fisher as well as the environment. Fishers are not the cause of these entanglements, outdated technology is. We owe it to them to work toward a solution that keeps this in mind.
Tora Johnson’s exhaustive look at the issue of cetacean entanglement and fisheries management is just as accurate and relevant today as it was when she first began her research. While some of the players have changed, the issue remains largely unresolved. Her insights lend remarkable depth and understanding to anyone wishing to navigate the complexities of change within our vital coastal communities.