IFAW: Recent Entanglement Highlights Need for Ropeless Fishing Gear
NANTUCKET – Marine animal experts say the fishing industry needs to switch to ropeless fishing gear – also known as on-demand gear – as endangered whales like the regular visitor to the Cape and “Snow Cone” islands continue to tangle.
Entanglement is the sixth for Snow Cone. New England Aquarium scientists said that given her injuries, she is unlikely to survive.
International Fund for Animal Welfare veterinarian Dr Sarah Sharp said the whale was likely suffering from a bone infection when the strings dig into its mouth, a common problem during entanglements.
“We have also seen tangles and lines around the pectoral fins causing partial amputations and causing necrosis of the appendages. These are really painful and horrifying experiences for these whales that can last for months and sometimes years,” Sharp said.
She added that whale entanglements require action from organizations like the Center for Coastal Studies, which is not without risk to staff safety.
“These whales, which weigh 50 tonnes when fully grown, can cause massive damage to people, even if they try to help them. These whales do not understand that we are trying to help them, they just know that they have a rope on them, that it hurts them and it is painful. So unfortunately they often see rescuers as threats to them,” Sharp said.
She said whales are also spending more and more time in the region’s waters as climate change continues to warm the oceans, meaning more overlap with fishing grounds where they were previously scarce.
New federal regulations meant to protect whales have been pushed back by the state of Maine and fishing groups, who say there are not enough data on the impact of the industry on marine animals and that the rules are too strict.
Director of the Center for Coastal Studies of Marine Animal Entanglement Response, Scott Landry, previously told CapeCod.com that they are investigating all options for disentanglement.