Disentangling Whales Along North America’s Coastline

With an increasing number of whales plying the oceans along the coastlines of North America, incidents of tragic human / whale encounters are growing — 14 reported Right Whale deaths along Canada’s east coast over the summer of 2017.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Welcome back Lawrence, what do we know about why this horrible tragedy is unfolding?

A. The North Atlantic Right Whale poses the greatest disentangling challenge due to their size and strength. We know 83% of their estimated 500 population already have experienced entanglements – many on multiple occasions.

Q. What are we doing to reduce whale mortalities along North America’s coastline?

A. Commercial fishing is the most dangerous profession in the world, and yet it’s often these same fishers who volunteer to be trained in whale disentanglement, a job that’s ten-times more dangerous. Whales of all sizes including humpback, North Atlantic right, sperm, minke, fin, sei, and blue whales are the victims, and it’s these fearless fishers who are putting their lives on the line by coming to the rescue.

Q. What should people do if they encounter an entangled whale?

A. Should you encounter an entangled whale, the following five steps should be followed to maximize the whale’s chances of being untangled, and to safeguard your own wellbeing.

  1. Report the entanglement sightings as soon as possible, to our hotline 866-755-6622 or by radioing the Coast Guard on Channel 16 of your VHF radio.
  2. Take pictures or video of the entanglement and record the location of the sighting. More information helps responders be better prepared.
  3. Stay back—entangled animals are animals in pain or discomfort. Protect yourselves, your passengers, and the whales by keeping a safe distance. Do not travel directly behind the whale as unseen lines may be trailing,
  4. Never attempt disentanglement on your own. This is illegal, dangerous, and could make the entanglement more lethal for the animal if the wrong rope is cut.
  5. If you can, stand by the animal until rescuers arrive, or arrange for other vessels to stand by. An animal with no standby is less likely to be found again.