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North Atlantic Right Whale Disentangled Near Grand Manan Island
August 5, 2018

Source: North Atlantic right whale disentangled 1 week after being spotted - CBC

A North Atlantic right whale who was badly entangled in fishing gear has been freed of most, if not all of the ropes and weight that was on him. The whale, a ten-year old male known to researchers as #3843, was first seen on July 30th with an orange buoy trailing behind him that appeared to be attached to some sort of weight such as a trap. He was seen swimming 22 miles east of Grand Manan Island and three rescue boats and one aircraft were out the next day to locate him again and attempt to disentangle him but bad weather, including dense fog, hampered their efforts and the search was temporarily suspended. The Campobello Whale Rescue Team also experienced a problem with their boat when fuel leaked into the bilge. They are asking the Canadian government for funds to purchase a new boat as their current one is at least 25 years old and they need a boat that's in good shape to continue to conduct rescues.

The search eventually resumed and thankfully he was sighted again in the late afternoon by the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station on August 5th near Grand Manan Island and a rescue effort was mounted by the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. It took an hour and a half to disentangle him but they believe that most of the gear was removed. When Scott Landry, director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response program at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, looked at recent photographs of this whale since he's been entangled and compared them to photos taken in June when the whale was sighted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence he was taken aback by the level of deterioration of the whale's health. He noted that the whale was pale and had lost weight, with cyamids, known as whale lice, all over his body and stated that "There's obviously something very, very severe about this entanglement" and that the whale was in terrible pain. Much of his suffering has been alleviated by this rescue and he now has a fighting chance to stay alive and help keep his species going.

This particular North Atlantic right whale is regularly sighted in the Bay of Fundy. He was seen there in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2016 and now 2018. He was also seen further north, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in 2017 and again on June 6th, 2018. These are crucial habitats for these whales and protections must be not only kept in place but expanded. He was the first North Atlantic right whale, and the second whale overall - the first being a young humpback whale, to be freed from fishing gear since the moratorium on disentanglements put in place after the death of whale rescuer Joe Howlett in July of 2017 was lifted by the Canadian government in March of 2018. The gear is now in the hands of the DFO and we hope they can trace it to an exact source in the course of their investigation. Over 20 fishing zones have already been closed this year after North Atlantic right whale sightings in those zones including some near Grand Manan Island just recently so if the gear is traced to an area that is still open we hope that it would be closed to fishing as well. If the gear is from a closed area then we would expect those responsible for placing it there to be prosecuted under the full extent of the law. We would like to thank the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station, the New England Aquarium, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team for their efforts in locating and disentangling this whale. A collaborative, international effort between multiple groups is an absolute necessity to help stop this suffering and restore this species to where it should be.

This particular battle had a good outcome, and we hope this whale can fully recover going forward, but the war goes on. These whales experience a massive amount of suffering and are being driven to extinction by the fishing industry. We encourage everyone to view our Entanglement in Fishing Gear section to find out more about what the fishing industry is doing to these whales and how we can prevent it.

north atlantic right whale #3843 looking healthy in June of 2018

North Atlantic right whale #3843 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on June 6th, 2018
Photo credit: Peter Duley, NOAA/NEFSC

north atlantic right whale #3843 entangled in the bay of fundy in 2018

#3843 in late July, entangled and trailing a buoy behind him
Photo credit: New England Aquarium