More whales reported entangled in fishing gear

Posted: Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Two more whales entangled in fishing gear have been reported since last week, when a team tried to free a humpback snarled in more than 100 feet of gillnet.

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One of the newly reported humpback whales was spotted recently near Haines and the other one was reported Monday near the southern part of Admiralty Island, according to the Marine Mammals Stranding Network Team.

Another humpback whale with fishing gear attached to it was reported dead on a beach on southern Admiralty Island over the weekend, said Ed Lyman, marine mammal disentanglement expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It seems like it was beached for part of a day and it seems to be floating," Lyman said. The team hopes to locate the dead whale.

"There's a big needle in a very big haystack," he said. "We're trying to find that animal. There's nothing we can do for it, but we can learn from it."

The team would like to have a necropsy of the whale done to determine its cause of death and whether or not it could have been caused by the fishing gear. There are a number of factors that could have led to the whale's death, Lyman said.

"It just increases the probability that a boat could come along and hit it," he said. "Since the report says there was gear on it, we definitely want to get to it."

As for the first of the entangled whales recently found, bad weather and the animal's new feeding grounds hampered attempts to fully disentangle it. The team was tracking the whale with a Global Positioning System.

"It's out beyond the mouth of Chatham Strait," Lyman said. "That's pretty exposed stuff. You're getting swells coming in."

Most of the gillnet has been cut off of the whale but conditions have not been right to attempt to try anything else, he said.

"It's pretty hard working on a 40-foot whale on a rubber boat, let alone with a chop or some swells," Lyman said.

The whale does have a good chance of shedding the rest of the net itself, he added.

"We just cut this whale free pretty much. The gear is hanging off the wounds, is what our problem is," he said, adding that the whale's injuries are not life-threatening. "You only want to pull so hard."

Lyman said he does not believe the entanglements are happening any more frequently this year, but said people have been doing well to report any incidents to authorities.

"We're doing our best here," Lyman said. "They're keeping me busy, that's for sure."



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