Written by Adrianne Madden
Thursday, 23 April 2009
It's amazing how so few northern right whales can find so much trouble.
The endangered northern right whale population is numbered at around 300. And given how few right whales there are and how vast the Atlantic Ocean is, you'd think they'd be able to steer well clear of potential problems. But their migratory patterns lead them to run afoul of ships and fishing gear.
Sunday afternoon, as it was returning to port, the 50-foot NOAA research vessel Auk, working for the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, accidentally collided with a right whale outside the sanctuary, about 7 miles east of Scituate, Mass.
Reportedly, three crew members served as lookouts outside the bridge, but the whale, floating beneath the surface, escaped detection until the vessel was about 10 feet from hitting it. A propeller lacerated the whale's left fluke, but the whale didn't appear to be in distress.
If so, then the whale cheated the Grim Reaper. A 2008 NOAA report on reducing right whale ship strikes says 89 percent of serious injuries and whale mortalities that occur from collisions involve vessels traveling in excess of 16 mph; the Auk reportedly was running at 22 mph when Sunday's collision occurred. Moreover, ship strikes account for the majority of right whale fatalities.
Yet it's hard to fault the Auk for the incident, which genuinely upset the crew. And the NOAA report suggests right whales have a knack for putting themselves in harm's way.
"Presumably, right whales are either unable to detect approaching vessels or they ignore them when involved in important activities such as feeding, nursing, or mating," the NOAA study notes. "Additionally, right whales are very buoyant and slow swimmers, which may make it difficult for them to avoid an oncoming vessel even if they are aware of its approach. Finally, given the density of ship traffic and the distribution of right whales, overlap is nearly inevitable, thereby increasing the probability of a collision even if either the whale or the vessel actively tries to avoid it."
Officials map out new shipping routes, order Northeast lobstermen to undertake a costly swap of floating rope for sinking rope, and decree when fishing gear can and cannot be deployed in certain areas, all in an effort to save the struggling right whale stock. One can only hope the whales are equally interested in saving themselves.
National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15
In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.
National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15
In this episode:
March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received
The New England Fishery Management Council is soliciting applications for seats on the Northeast Trawl Survey Advisory Panel and the deadline to apply is July 31 at 5:00 p.m.
The panel will consist of 16 members including members of the councils and the Atlantic States Fishery Commission, industry experts, non-federal scientists and Northeast Fisheries Science Center scientists. Panel members are expected to serve for three years.Read more...
Commercial salmon fishermen will have 12 hours to fish Oregon's lower Columbia River, starting at 7 p.m. tonight.
Biologists upgraded their forecast for the summer king run to 120,000, the largest since at least 1960.Read more...