Northern Right Whale, showing baleen © James D. Watt/Waterhouse
Only right whale untangled
from fishing line washes up on Massachusetts beach
BY ALISON AULD
HALIFAX - The only
North Atlantic right whale that scientists managed to free from a deadly mess
of fishing line this summer has washed up dead on a beach in Massa chusetts.
Scientists say the discovery is the latest piece of bad
news in the worst season on record for entanglements of the rare mammals.
The one-year-old female was found days ago being tossed
in rough surf off a Nantucket beach, just more than a month after experts
removed a long line of rope from its tail as it moved through the Bay of Fundy.
A research team was unable to get close to the whale to
determine the cause of death, but said there were deep, infected wounds where
the line had been cut off in a dangerous and tricky procedure.
"This is just brutal," said Moira Brown of the Center for
Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass.
"This is the most
entangled whales we've ever seen in a single year. We were only able to
disentangle one and it dies. This is where you have to start to work hard to
keep the morale up."
Researchers saw eight of the
endangered whales become ensnared in fishing line this year, with five of them
being spotted in the Bay of Fundy. There were four entanglements last year, and
it's believed some of those later died from their injuries.
The loss of the young whale is a major blow to the
research community that has been trying for years to raise the population of
the threatened creatures, whose population has been reduced to about 300
The yearling was one of 31 whales that was
born more than a year ago in what experts were heralding as a baby boom for the
But, at least two of the newborns were killed by
ship strikes and two died from unknown causes, making this the fifth death.
It was first seen in July off Briar Island, N.S., with a
piece of rope and an orange buoy wrapped around its tail. It was seen several
times in the bay in August and was disentangled in September.
An aerial survey team spotted the whale off Cape Cod at
the beginning of October, looking grey and thin. Scientists found its emaciated
carcass on Oct. 12, but were unable to do an autopsy on it.
The death has renewed calls for fishing groups and
governments to do more to protect the species.