3 Right Whale ‘Incidents’ Prompt NOAA to Issue Reminders to Fishermen

COURTESY OF NOAA FISHERIES Endangered North Atlantic right whales

Endangered North Atlantic right whales

NOAA Fisheries is reminding fishermen and boaters in New England waters about the presence of endangered North Atlantic right whales after three incidents late last week.

One right whale was reported entangled in fishing gear off Provincetown on Thursday and was released alive.

Two dead right whales were spotted on Friday and Saturday off the coast of Maine.

“In general this is the time of year where we expect the animals to start returning to this area,” said Sean Hayes, the protected species chief with Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “So it wasn’t a total surprise that they were in the area.”

Recreational boaters reported the entangled whale that was freed to the Coast Guard on Thursday. The whale towed hundreds of feet of line and buoys from its upper jaw.

Crews from the Center for Coastal Studies launched a response and removed the line and buoys.

NOAA Fisheries recovered the fishing gear and is investigating its origin to see if is compliant with large whale take reduction requirements.

The whale is currently believed to be in the Gulf of Maine. Researchers are searching for the whale and will reassess its condition when it can be located.

On Saturday a dead right whale was found about eight miles off Mount Desert Rock in Maine. The whale was heavily decomposed and a cause of death could not be determined.

Weather conditions did not allow for the whale to be towed in for a necropsy. Photo documentation was made on Monday after the whale had been found again.

On Friday, the first dead whale was found 12 to 13 miles off Portland. The animal was towed in by Maine Marine Patrol and the Coast Guard and was taken to a compost facility in Gorham Maine.

A team of 20 researchers conducted a necropsy on the marine mammal on Sunday.

The whale was found to have rope entangled around her head, in her mouth and around both flippers. NOAA recovered the gear and is investigating its source.

The blubber layer on the female whale was thin which is consistent with prolonged stress. The cause of death was determined to be chronic entanglement.

The whale was 43 feet long and about 45 tons and was about 11 years old. She was identified by the New England Aquarium and was first sighted in 2006. She is not known to have had any offspring.

David Gouveia, the marine mammal and sea turtle program coordinator with NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, said entanglements of North Atlantic right whales have not decreased this year.

“We are generally right now on par with averages for the year, but we are still early in the year so it’s a concern for us,” he said.

Population estimates for the species are roughly around 500.

Entanglements are of serious concern for the whales and are involved in a majority of human-caused fatalities.

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