Entanglements of large whales with fishing gear or marine debris dropped slightly to 67 confirmed incidents in 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week.
The agency’s annual National Report on Large Whale Entanglements Confirmed in the United States in 2022 counted 67 confirmed entanglements nationally – a slight decrease from 2021 and still slightly below the historical average of 72.
“This is slightly below the 69 confirmed large whale entanglement cases in 2021. This number is also slightly below the average annual number of confirmed entanglements over the previous 15 years (annual average was 72),” according to an agency summary. “We will continue to analyze data from 2022 to understand whether this dip is temporary or part of a longer term downward trend.”
Some large whale populations are believed to be increasing in U.S. waters, such as humpbacks, but “ entanglements in fishing gear or marine debris represent a continued threat to the welfare and recovery of these species,” according to NOAA.
“They are also a significant threat to large whale species that are endangered and approaching extinction,” especially North Atlantic right whales, the agency says. “Entanglements involving threatened or endangered species can have significant negative impacts to the population as a whole. For example, chronic entanglements are one reason scientists think that female North Atlantic right whales are having fewer calves and are taking longer to have calves.”