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Dec 31 2014

More Whales Close to Shore Increases Entanglement Risk

By Founder & President Kurt Lieber

Ocean Defenders of humpback whalesIn a bit of good news for us whale and dolphin lovers, ABC News reported on a sharp rise in whale sightings in California. The reasons for this increase are not well understood yet, but warming oceans are the prime suspect.

Our waters have been unusually warm this year-as high as 75 degrees in some locations. It is presumed that the warmed waters are bringing the whales' food sources closer to our coast, and of course what respectable whale could turn down a free coastal buffet?

Lobster trap line in kelp forestLobster trap line lurking
in kelp forest.
While I see this report as something to be celebrated, I also fear for their safety, because 50% of gray whales and 80% of humpback whales show signs of having been entangled in fishing gear at some point in their lives. We are in the middle of the commercial lobster season here in Southern California…and there are thousands of traps out there. Each trap has line on it, and some have hundreds of feet or whale-entangling line on them. These lines also wrap around and "choke" many other forms of life, even kelp.

Ocean Defenders Divers on scootersWhile ODA can do nothing about the legally set traps, we can (and regularly do!) remove abandoned and/or illegal ones. We contact the lobster fishermen and tell them where we are going, and ask if they have lost any. We then go to the site and our awesome volunteers cruise around on our underwater scooters looking for abandoned traps.  

A little piece of me dies every time I hear that another whale or dolphin has drowned from being entangled in a trap line. Stopping this from happening is why our wonderful volunteers (both onshore and at-sea) pitch in and do all we can to remove this ghost gear.
As you celebrate the coming New Year, please remember that ODA's new boat, "Mr. Barker's LegaSea," is ready for action! Weather thwarted us last weekend, but we are ready to make 2015 our best year ever.

Now THAT is really worth celebrating, eh?

Thank you all for helping us make this happen, and have a safe New Years!

 
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