Why disentanglement teams are a crutch and not an adequate defense against entanglements.

Humpback whale entangled in fishing gear. © 2019 Captain Steve’s Rafting Adventures

“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 Fishers are not the cause of these entanglements, outdated technology is.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.

Deceased Atlantic Humpback, cause of death unknown. ©2019 Betty Burks

-Kim Sawicki March 2019

Ropeless and Lineless Fishing Gear

Below you will find links and videos highlighting the current manufacturers of several different styles of this innovative gear. Not all of the gear videos are the most current, as some of the designs are protected under non-disclosure agreements with the author or patents pending. As newer videos become available, this page will be updated. I have also included links to contact the manufacturers directly under each video.

The systems are presented in alphabetical order. Feel free to contact the author for any questions.

-Kim Sawicki February 2019







Forward Thinking: The FAO and the EC

Aquaculture in Ireland © Kim Sawicki

Sustainable fishery practices that are “ecosystem-based” have been identified by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a top priority for the next century. Industry, including both small and medium-scale operations (i.e., family-operated fisheries and artisanal fisheries) as well as commercial powerhouses, have been slower to acknowledge and adopt measures which are viewed as “sustainable” by FAO standards. These sustainable practices include measures that assist in the reduction of unintended bycatch and entanglements of marine mammals. With the European Union’s commitment to sustainably produced foods and their dedication to exploration and implementation of research and policy-making that is informed by science as well as industry, their successful measures serve as an excellent guide for US-based managed fisheries partners.

With an ecosystem-based approach to management of fisheries, the EC requested that “research…should address the social aspects of the seafood sector, which is essential for the cohesion of the social fabric in the European coastal areas”. This research has led to the development of policies and programs designed not only to produce a sustainable fisheries economy but to engage with coastal communities and artisanal fishermen in working groups that ensure all stakeholders have equal voice and engagement. Additionally, these EC-funded, EU-supported policies and voluntary stewardship collaborations and working groups serve as a viable model for overcoming many of the challenges we face in the US. These fisheries management programs should be comparatively examined not only on a policy level but through qualitative means, with a focus on cultural acceptance of initiatives through interviews and hands-on interactions with fisherman in their communities.

-Kim Sawicki November 2018