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Whale entangled in Bay of Fundy

BY Alison Auld
Canadian Press
June 1 0 , 2 0 0 2

   HALIFAX - An endangered North Atlantic right whale was entangled in a mess of fishing gear off the Nova Scotia coast just as many of the mammals were beginning their annual trek into Canadian waters.
    The whale was thought to be somewhere off Briar Island, struggling in a tangle of what was believed to be fishing line, with an orange buoy cinched around its tail.
   It wasn't clear Tuesday where the massive mammal travelled to after it moved quickly away from a throng of whale-watching vessels that spotted it on the weekend.
   Deborah Tobin, who surveys whales in the Bay of Fundy, saw the animal Saturday after being alerted to it by a tour operator. She said the whale appeared to not be a mature adult and was on its own.
   "The gear was wrapped around the tail, but it definitely rubbed its way well into the tail," she said from her research office near Digby, N.S.
   "It looked quite roughed up. I think it will be a fairly difficult disentanglement."
   The Canadian Coast Guard travelled to the site Saturday, but could do little to help the whale and no longer knows where it is. An official with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it would have to wait for another sighting before taking any action.
   A team of American disentanglement experts was on standby to come to the area near the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, if a rescue could be launched. The concern is that the line might grow into the young whale's flesh and cause an infection, which can be fatal if not treated.
   Researchers are closely watching the progress of the whales, who make an annual trek from their birthing grounds off Florida and Georgia into the bay where they feed on rich supplies of plankton.
   They're hoping to stave off any more deaths of the marine giants, whose fragile population has been reduced to only 300 worldwide.
   About 75 whales are clustered off Cape Cod, where it's believed they're delaying their move into the bay because of plentiful food supplies in U.S. waters.
   Researchers in the Bay of Fundy have set up a tracking system that will alert vessels of right whales in the area to prevent ship strikes, one of the biggest killers of the whales who lumber along slowly and can't get out of the way of massive bulk carriers.

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