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Taken from the Times Globe, Monday, June 21/99

Tangled whales elude searchers, rescuers
Movie-star whale not anxious to leave its N.B.-built haven

By MONTAGUE McAULIFFE
Times Globe staff writer

    Two entangled right whales were spotted in the Bay of Fundy on Friday and Saturday.
    Deborah Tobin, a public education co-ordinator with East Coast Ecosystems, said one of the whales was still missing yesterday afternoon, while the second continues to elude rescuers, Ms. Tobin said.
    Explanations for why rescuers haven't found the first whale could be that it sank to the bottom of the bay or simply left the area. Choppy water cancelled their search yesterday.
    When searchers spotted the first whale from a Coast Guard helicopter Friday, it was moving slowly and appeared to be getting pulled down by ropes and buoys.
    "It looks like the gear was picked up in the Bay of Fundy, judging by the way it was acting," Ms. Tobin said, from her Freeport, N.S. office yesterday afternoon.
   She said rescue teams were searching the Grand Marian Basin near the centre of the bay when they came across the second whale.
    This whale became tangled somewhere along the East Coast of the United States about five weeks ago, Ms. Tobin said, and there have been previous attempts to free it.
    It appears healthy, despite being entangled in the fishing gear, Ms. Tobin said, noting that the whale swam up the East Coast.
    The East Coast Ecosystems rescue team tried to free the 15-metre, 43,360- kilogram whale Saturday without success.
    "If you have a large healthy whale who doesn't want you to get near him, you can't," Ms. Tobin said. "This whale was diving for 12 minutes at a time and coming up in different locations and really working hard to avoid us."
   Another obstacle facing the rescuers is the short length of the gear the second whale is tangled in. The shorter the net or equipment, the more difficult it is to catch.
    She said the gear may even have been cut in previous attempts to catch the mammal, but that the best way to catch an entangled whale is to actually attach more gear to it.
    "We were not able to get close enough to do anything about the tanglement."
    The extra gear also slows the animal down, she added, noting that this mammal is being tracked and that other attempts to free it will be made.
   There are fewer than 300 right whales known to exist, most of which come to the Bay of Fundy every summer to feed.

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