Activist asks judge to stop rescue of Right Whale

Associated Press
June 22/01

    BOSTON - An environmental activist went to U.S. federal court yesterday to halt a delicate operation on a North Atlantic right whale entangled in fishing line.
   Richard (Max) Strahan said in his suit against the Center for Coastal Studies and the National Marine Fisheries Service the agencies will violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act and probably kill the whale if they sedate it as planned and attempt to remove a synthetic rope deeply embedded in its upper jaw and mouth.
    As of 6 p.m. ADT yesterday, judge George O'Toole had not ruled on whether to schedule a hearing on the suit, judge O'Toole's secretary said.
    Mr. Strahan called the at-sea rescue operation "whale fraud."
    "They're going to go rip this thing off its head and kill it in the process. They're incompetent," Mr. Strahan said.
    But if the rope isn't removed, the bull whale likely will die, said the Center for Coastal Studies and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
    "We'll see him in court, if it comes to that," said Teri Frady, a fisheries service spokeswoman.
   "I think everyone here is really focused on what we can do for this really injured animal out in the ocean. "
    The procedure to remove the rope, said to be the first of its kind, was called off yesterday because of bad weather and has not been rescheduled, Ms. Frady said.
    Ms. Frady said "the best people we can find ... in this country have gathered here at public and private expense to improve the situation for this whale. "
   "No one is going off half prepared. If it can be done, this group can do it," she said.
   A spokeswoman for the Center for Coastal Studies did not immediately return a call.
    The whale, first discovered in trouble June 8 and thought to be headed for the Bay of Fundy, is about 160 kilometres east of Cape Cod, Mass. Experts said rescuers can't move close enough to free the whale if it isn't sedated.
   The North Atlantic right whale population is down to about 300 and this one is reproductively active, justifying extraordinary and risky rescue efforts, officials said last week.

Rescue of entangled right whale set for today

Associated Press
June 25/01

    BOSTON - A team of marine scientists plans to begin the rescue today of an endangered whale entangled in fishing line.
   The 15-metre North Atlantic right whale, thought to be headed for the Bay of Fundy, was spotted on June 8 about 130 kilometres east of Cape Cod with the line embedded, in its upper jaw. Scientists say the line is causing an infection that will eventually kill the whale, one of only about 300 left in the world.
   The team plans to, photograph the whale and assess its condition, then return tomorrow, sedate it if necessary and try to loosen the 1.5 centimetre-thick plastic line.
   The weather for today and tomorrow appeared optimal for the delicate rescue, said National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Teri Frady.
    "It's the best weather we've seen since we spotted the entanglement," Ms. Frady said yesterday. "We've had pretty much bad visibility and choppy seas since then. We'll have much better conditions for [Monday] and, it appears, even better conditions for Tuesday."
    The Center for Coastal Studies, based in Provincetown, and the fisheries service are planning the rescue. If the whale needs to be sedated, the team is considering putting a harness around it so it doesn't lash out, and cutting off trailing portions of the line so that it is more likely to fall out.
    Rescuers also plan to make sure a satellite buoy is still attached so the whale can be located again.
    Scientists are concerned that if the rescue is not completed soon, the whale may move out of the team's range and eventually die.
   On Friday, a federal judge denied an environmental activist's request to stop the rescue. The environmentalist claimed the sedation would kill the whale.