North Atlantic Right Whale Fishing Gear Entanglements - Case Studies

Entanglement in commercial fishing ropes threatens the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), a species largely restricted waters off of eastern North America. In recent years, serious entanglements have been increasing, and mortality from conflicts with fishing operations exceeds US legal mandates, with 83% of the population showing incidence of scarring as a consequence of these encounters. What happens when whales encounter fishing gear is complex and poorly understood. The goal of creating these case studies was to combine what we know to date on the individual whales entangled, the configuration of ropes entangling them, the extent of their injuries, and what can be learned about the gear retrieved from them. There is much to learn about the nature of these conflicts, and increasing our understanding about these events can help point to some of the more promising ways to avoid them or reduce their severity. For more information, see also the Conservation Biology paper by Knowlton et al (2016) on the Publications Page, or on the Conservation Biology Website.