Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Do Endangered Whales Keep Getting Entangled off New England?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Do Endangered Whales Keep Getting Entangled off New England?

Article excerpt

A 45-ton North Atlantic right whale, a rare breed whose numbers have been in decline recently, was found dead about 12 miles off of the coast of Maine over the weekend after it became entangled in fishing gear.

The case is the latest of three recent right whale entanglements - one of which also resulted in the whale's death - that authorities with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say could inform future regulations. The agency is in the process of using the gear to sort out whether the fishermen who owned it were in compliance with regulations, according to NOAA Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle program coordinator David Gouveia.

"We're on par for the course with the averages for the year for entanglements," Mr. Gouveia told the Associated Press. "Overall, if you look at entanglements of all large whale species, we're a little bit above our average."

The incidents come as scientists point to entanglements as an increasing source of danger for the whales.

Between 1970 and 2009, 44 percent of diagnosed deaths were because of entanglements, according to a study published this August in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. Between 2010 and 2015, entanglements accounted for a full 85 percent of right whale deaths. Meanwhile, deaths from entanglements and collisions with ships, another common hazard, increased over that five-year period, compared to the preceding two decades. The whales' birth rate also fell sharply from 2010 to 2015.

"Right whales need immediate and significant management intervention to reduce mortalities and injuries from fishing gear," concluded the study's authors, adding that an explanation for the decline in new births was necessary before the species' return from near-extinction could be considered a success story. "Failure to act on this new information will lead to further declines in this population's number and increase its vulnerability to extinction," they wrote. …

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