A fishing line from Maine was found on a dead North Atlantic right whale

A fishing line from Maine was found on a dead North Atlantic right whale

A North Atlantic right whale that washed up on Martha’s Vineyard on January 28 was found with a Maine fishing line tangled and secured to its tail. NOAA Fisheries announced that its analysis of the equipment contained purple markings that comply with Maine lobster equipment labeling requirements.

The complete necropsy report for North Atlantic right whale No. 5120 found reports of chronic entanglements on February 2, a thin body condition, and a deeply submerged rope. NOAA reported that an autopsy showed no evidence of blunt force trauma. About 360 North Atlantic right whales remain, with fewer than 70 actively reproductive females.

Researchers observed the 3-year-old female whale as a calf in 2021 and gave it the number 5120. In August 2022, the number 5120 was again seen tangled in fishing gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On August 31, 2022, this right whale was added as a critically injured case to the Unusual Mortality Event.

One section of rope with a purple zip tie was entangled with North Atlantic right whale No. 5120 on Martha’s Vineyard. NOAA Fisheries image.

“Multiple attempts were made to untie the whale off Cape Cod in January and February 2023. It was re-sighted still entangled in June 2023 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with its overall body condition deteriorating as the constricting rope around its tail became deeper. “Embedded,” according to the report. For a summary issued by the New England Aquarium.

Patrick Kelleher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and policy, science and enforcement staff went to Gloucester, Massachusetts, to inspect the equipment and review NOAA’s findings. He shared a statement that the equipment was in fact consistent with Maine trap equipment.

“This is extremely unfortunate – our goal is zero entanglements. This is certainly a rare event. In fact, this is the first right whale entanglement with Maine gear known since 2004. It is also the first right whale fatality with known Maine gear that DMR is aware of since the establishment of abatement plan,” Kelleher shared.

Maine DMR also shared that they had not determined whether the gear was compatible with state or federal waters, as the built-in rope found did not have green markings. No float was collected with the rope, which may also help determine the owner of the equipment and the exact location of the potential entanglement.

“MLA is deeply saddened by the death of a juvenile right whale attributed by NMFS to Maine fisheries. We know that entanglement in Maine gear is extremely rare. This is the first reported incident of a right whale entangled in lobster gear in Maine in 20 years and the first One death was attributed to the fishery, according to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

“Maine lobstermen have dramatically changed the way they fish over the past 25 years to avoid entanglements and continue testing gear. MLA will continue this important work as we review the data and evidence collected by NMFS. MLA remains committed to finding a solution to ensure the future of right whales and lobster fisheries The sea in Maine.

Maine’s lobster industry provides more than 22,000 jobs to Maine and contributes more than $1 billion directly to Maine’s economy annually. The MLA will strive to proactively allow Maine lobster fishermen to continue fishing under existing whale protection rules and ensure the industry and species coexist.

The incident also highlights the importance of DMR’s work to better understand the presence of North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of Maine. DMR shared that its top priority remains to better collect robust data to inform risk characterization in Maine waters. ­­­

“Maine’s lobster industry is the backbone of communities up and down our coast,” Congressman Jared Golden said in a press release. “The death of this whale is unfortunate, but we have to be realistic about the trade-offs. I will continue to stand with Maine lobstermen in the face of any effort to use this incident to justify new mandates that would threaten their livelihoods and the foundation of the communities that depend on this fishery.”


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