Thursday, February 20, 2014

Young right whale partially freed from fishing rope

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:38 AM

A young North Atlantic right whale is swimming easier after wildlife biologists cut away most of the 100-plus yards of heavy fishing rope the animal was dragging, says a Ga. Department of Natural Resources spokesman.

The disentanglement effort, much of which occurred 40 miles off Georgia’s Wolf Island Monday, "was relatively quick for the 4-year-old male whale, one of only about 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales."

Directed to the whale by an aerial survey team and a satellite tracking buoy monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), authorized staff with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assessed the entanglement and threw a device called a cutting grapple across the trailing rope. Soon, the thick rope parted.

"But responders could not remove all of the rope because the whale avoided the boats and because the rope is likely entangled in its baleen," the filter-feeding structures inside the mouths of baleen whales.

Researchers hope the whale known as No. 4057 will shed the rest of the rope on its own. "Responders won’t know No. 4057’s fate until, or unless, he is seen again."

More than 80 percent of North Atlantic right whales bear scars from rope entanglements, and almost 60 percent have been entangled twice.

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