Fishing gear in Maine, cause of death of North Atlantic right whales, NOAA reveals

Fishing gear in Maine, cause of death of North Atlantic right whales, NOAA reveals

Jeb Brogan, campaign director associated with the Oceana conservation group, stressed the need for action, calling on the state of Maine to take responsibility and deploy measures to stop the entanglements. Brogan said that for more than half of its short life, the young whale suffered from a rope stuck in its tail, leading to a slow and unnecessary death because the government was unable to provide adequate protection to prevent entanglements.

According to Dr. Francine Kershaw, associated with the National Resources Defense Council, North Atlantic right whales in Maine’s waters navigate nearly 400,000 vertical buoy lines that mark lobster and crab traps. Despite this, the Maine lobster industry continues to deny responsibility for whale entanglements, with only a few entanglements being traced back to Maine fisheries due to a lack of equipment tagging needs in 70% of Maine’s waters.

Right whale
Representation image

Dr. Kershaw also believes that ropeless fishing systems can help eliminate entanglements. As new information emerges about the origin of tangled rope No. 5120, she said, they also hope Maine lobster fisheries will begin to engage in reasonable faith efforts to promote the commercial use of ropeless fishing gear.

A comprehensive investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (abbreviated as NOAA) has confirmed that a rope has been recovered from a dead female North Atlantic right whale. It is compatible with equipment used on Maine trap or bowl float lines. This whale has been identified as #5120.

It was found off Martha’s Vineyard in late January 2024. The right whale calf was born in 2021 during calving season, and was Squilla’s only known calf (right whale No. 3720). It was first found tangled in fishing gear off New Brunswick in August 2022, and despite attempts to disentangle it, the whale’s condition had deteriorated by the time it was last seen in June 2023.

Autopsy results are still awaited, and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement continues to investigate. This death also marks the 37th death as an unusual mortality event for North Atlantic right whales was declared in 2017. The deaths also raised concerns because North Atlantic right whales are on the verge of extinction, with less than 360 individuals remaining, of which less than 70 are Females active in the field of reproduction.

Reference: Natural Resources Defense Council

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