Safer gear means saving endangered whales

Sometimes technology solves a problem, sometimes it makes it worse.

When researchers at the New England Aquarium and the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown examined ropes recovered from whales entangled in fishing gear from 1994 to 2010, they found that entanglements for North Atlantic right whales, the world’s most endangered great whale species, accelerated dramatically from 1993 to 2010, in both frequency and in the severity of the entrapment.

The culprit, scientists believe, is a new type of rope known as Polysteel, that rope manufacturers began making and marketing to fishermen and others in the marine trades as being 40 percent stronger and more durable than other synthetic ropes. Plus, the lobster industry also shifted from wood to wire traps that allowed them to use heavier gear and for the pots to stay in the water through the winter, increasing the likelihood of interaction with whales.

Even though fishermen already employ weak links designed to break and separate the line from the buoy when a whale pulls on it, researchers found the lines themselves were still doing a lot of damage.

Read the full story at the Cape Cod Times >>

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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