Thursday, 23 May 2013

Study Reveals How Fishing Gear Can Cause Slow Death of Whales

May 21, 2013 — Using a "patient monitoring" device attached to a whale entangled in fishing gear, scientists showed for the first time how fishing lines changed a whale's diving and swimming behavior. The monitoring revealed how fishing gear hinders whales' ability to eat and migrate, depletes their energy as they drag gear for months or years, and can result in a slow death.

The scientists in this entanglement response suction-cupped a cellphone-size device called a Dtag to a two-year-old female North Atlantic right whale called Eg 3911. The Dtag, developed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), recorded Eg 3911's movements before, during, and after at-sea disentanglement operations.

Immediately after Eg 3911 was disentangled from most of the fishing gear, she swam faster, dove twice as deep, and for longer periods. The study, by scientists at WHOI, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and NOAA Fisheries, was published online May 21 in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

"The Dtag opened up a whole new world of Eg 3911's life under water that otherwise we weren't able to see," said Julie van der Hoop, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography.


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