‘A whale trap’: Fishing gear can endanger, kill whales and cause other long-term health effects

Exposing the Big Game

North Carolina Public Radio | BySophia Friesen

Published July 4, 2022 at 12:43 PM EDT


Photo of a whale tail splashing out of the water. The tail has many scars and injuries.
This whale was last seen in 2011 with severe entanglement injuries. She was never seen again.

Fishing gear puts rare right whales in more danger than previously thought, according tonew researchfrom Duke University and the New England Aquarium.

Ropes attached to unattended fishing equipment can entangle and kill whales. The recent study found that even when whales survive an entanglement, they are less healthy and less likely to reproduce.

For the North Atlantic right whale, this is very bad news. The whale population has recovered from a low point of 25 to 50 individuals to about 350 worldwide. But this precariously low population is declining fast again, and the new research supports claims that fishing equipment – particularly gear that stays in one place, like gillnets and lobster…

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