Ocean Defenders Alliance
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Oct 20 2016

Fishing Gear Entangles Whale

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

This has been a horrible year for our far-ranging friends, the humpback whales. 

These endangered mammals, along with other whales and marine life, come into contact with derelict commercial fishing gear so frequently that the numbers will make you physically ill. 

See the yellow fishing lines entangled around this humpback whale See the yellow fishing lines entangled around this humpback whale. Photo credit Captain Ryan Lawler, Newport Coastal Adventure

Another humpback whale was just spotted off the coast of Southern California—with fishing gear hooked in its mouth and wrapped around its fin. Captain Ryan Lawler and our friends at Newport Coastal Adventure spotted the poor creature and stayed with it for five hours.

They documented the situation and contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) disentanglement team, hoping that they could track it down and save it from a slow watery death, but as of this writing they have not been successful.

Back to the Staggering Stats

Up until 2013, NOAA documented 10-12 entanglements per year along the west coast of the US, from Washington state down to the border with Mexico. 

Then in 2014, we had 42 confirmed entanglements, and 2015 saw another 47. This year, with two more months left in the year, the numbers are off the charts at 67...and counting! With lobster season just started, and the crab season beginning next month, we can reasonably expect to see these numbers increase significantly.

How Does This Happen?

Humpback, gray, and blue whales are the primary (unintended) victims of the lobster and crab fishery. 

Fishing gear caught on whaleFishing gear caught on whale.
Captain Ryan Lawler, Newport Coastal Adventure

While the whales go about their daily business of traveling thousands of miles to find food, they are oblivious to the hundreds of thousands of trap lines floating vertically and in arcs in the water. These lines can wrap around their pectoral fins, tail flukes, and sometimes even through their mouths as we saw with this whale off Newport.

More Ocean Defense Needed

Your Ocean Defenders Alliance Boat & Dive Crews do our best to remove the trap lines that inevitably become separated from the buoys and continue to menace ocean flora and fauna. Left to dangle in the water or along the sea floor, these fishing lines can AND DO ensnare whales, dolphins, sea lions, and other life forms. This too often results in agonizing death.

Since 2000, we have been “diving in” and removing this deadly debris. It’s impossible to know how many whales we have saved with our proactive actions, but we know that we have removed MANY obstacles from their way.

With your support, we will continue defending whales from this horrible fate.

Thank you, in advance, for helping us make the underwater world safer for our friends that call our oceans home.

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ODA eliminates dangerous man-made debris which pose serious threats to ocean wildlife and habitats.

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