Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Entangled whale

This morning the sea conditions were not perfect but were OK for sighting. We listened and looked for whales, picking up lots of animals as we near our primary study site. This afternoon the visual observers sighted a Cuvier's beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris, and noticed that she was logging at the surface in an unusual way. This whale was entangled in a fishing net, with two cuts on her side. Her skin was abraded by the net and looked white on the top of her back. We sent out our small inflatable boat to approach the whale, which came over and actually rubbed on the side of the boat for a short time before sinking down very slowly in an unusual dive behavior. The crew on the tag boat tried to slowly approach the whale to attempt to cut free some of the net line loose, but they were unable to approach closely enough to help the whale. We have alerted Spanish marine mammal experts about her location and condition.

Globally, hundreds of thousands of marine mammals entangle in fishing gear each year, and many of them die slow painful deaths. We were unable to free this whale, which was very disappointing for the team. We hope that humans can change their behavior to reduce the risk of entanglement for marine mammals.