Only four days ago, the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Team received a report of an entangled humpback whale off Long Island. Yesterday, that same whale was found dead. The young female appears to have died as a result of becoming entangled in gillnetting, a gear type that NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) exempted from their latest proposed rule to reduce vertical line entanglements. NMFS ignored repeated requests by WDC and others asking the Agency to include all fixed fishing gear in their plan, including gillnetting. Also of concern is the proposed plan does not reduce risk in the mid-Atlantic, including the waters off New York. Instead, it simply asks for additional gear marking measures to identify the gear once the whale becomes entangled. The plan also largely ignores humpback whale even though they remain listed as endangered in the US. But perhaps the real tragedy is that this whale had the misfortune of dying during a US government shutdown, a time when no rules will be released to protect whales or actions taken to determine where the gear originated.
Photo courtesy of our friends at Riverhead Foundation.