Friday, September 4, 2009

Baldy's eighth baby

Baldy's eighth baby suffered through an entanglement in presumed fishing gear sometime during the migration from Florida to the Bay of Fundy. Already seen by the New England Aquarium research team, Quoddy Link Marine naturalist Danielle Dion ( provided me with photographs of what she thought was Baldy’s calf taken off Head Harbour, Campobello Island but we have discovered that these photos are actually of another young right whale that has not been identified as of yet that has also been entangled.

Right whales have been very close to Campobello this summer, beginning in late August. This area was used in 1980-1 but is more frequently used in October of most recent years with the most extreme occurrence of right whales in the fall of 2006. This occurrence near the beginning of the lobster season precipitated the Right Whale Mitigation Plan or Southwest New Brunswick, similar to the voluntary Code of Ethics for whale watchers, outlining methods that lobster fishermen can take to avoid entangling right whales and also avoid loosing their fishing gear.

Photos of a young right whale that has been entangled. Danielle Dion photographs.

Danielle has been shocked at the beat up nature of right whales, i.e. very badly scarred whales. Much of this scarring is the result of entanglement in fishing gear. Those not regularly watching North Atlantic right whales are often unaware of their badly scarred bodies. Over 70% of right whales carry scars from entanglement in fishing gear. Because right whales are stronger than many whale species (due to their method of feeding, filtering the water as they swim), when entangled they fight the lines which are anchored to the bottom and usually break free, taking lines with them. In their struggle, they often scrape the skin which when it heals appears white and makes it more visible. They also roll and complicate the entanglement by creating tight wraps. Some right whales carry entangling ropes for five or more years. Right whales also don't slow down when disentanglers are trying to remove the lines which makes it difficult to free them.

Thanks to Danielle for the great photographs of this young right whale.

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