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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

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Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

A Unique Story of Survival

On March 17, 2004 a young North Atlantic right whale, probably just a little over a year old, was sighted off the southeast of the US with fishing gear wrapped around his body. This young and vulnerable whale had thick rope tightly bound around his body twice, just behind his blowhole and then wrapping around each of his pectoral fins, restricting his movements. Additionally, the rope was estimated to trail for 100 yards behind the whale, adding drag to his swimming and further tightening the rope to the point that it cut into the his flesh. Disentanglement teams quickly assembled to do what they could to free this young whale from his suffering.


Photo Credit: US Coast Guard

One of the issues however, is that injured wild animals don’t often sit still and wait to be helped….and right whales are no different. In fact, right whales often thrash their large flukes during disentanglement attempts. They also are not known for slowing down (or better yet stopping) – all making disentangling a right whale very difficult and dangerous. Right whales have even been known to tow a small rescue boat for miles. For these reasons, disentanglement attempts are carefully planned; weather and sea conditions must be optimal in order to embark on a disentangling endeavor. Fortunately, in this case the entangled juvenile was close to shore and weather and sea conditions were favorable, giving the disentanglement team a chance to mount a response. With the assistance of the United States Coast Guard cutter, Kingfisher, the disentanglement team was able to successfully approach the young right whale. They were even successful in removing the line tightly embedded around his body and left flipper. Sadly the whale’s right pectoral flipper could not be freed from the rope. This remaining gear threatened to continue cutting into the whale’s right pectoral fin, leaving this young whale prone to debilitating injury and serious infection. The team attached a telemetry buoy to the gear remaining on the whale so they could track him in hopes of getting another chance to free him from the remaining, horrific entanglement. Also this young whale, previously referred to as #3346, was given the name Kingfisher in honor of the US Coast Guard vessel assisting in the rescue attempts. Unfortunately, rough weather set in and Kingfisher moved further offshore, making it impossible for teams to try another approach. And so the quest to monitor and track Kingfisher began, for two weeks rescuers had been tracking him north along the East coast when the Disentanglement Network hotline received a call from a Cape May fishing captain who reported he had the telemetry buoy aboard his boat. The captain went on to report that he never saw a whale but had caught the line in his propeller. The disentanglement teams, along with concerned citizens following Kingfisher’s plight, hoped this newest turn of events did not mean the worst and that Kingfisher was still alive. Then, against all odds, at sunset on January 11, 2005, Kingfisher was spotted by the New England Aquarium aerial team off the coast of Georgia during a survey of right whale winter habitat. Even more surprisingly, despite his continued entanglement was that he seemed to be in good condition. Today, exactly 9 years later, Kingfisher still lives with his right flipper entangled, and the gear continues to tighten, cutting into flesh and bone and causing chronic injury and pain. His is an unlikely story; most whales do not survive such a severe entanglement. We hope for his continued health and ask you to join us in our efforts to reduce the risk of entanglement in fishing gear in order to prevent other cases like Kingfisher’s.