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Below are just some of the articles published on the recent efforts to save a right whales tangled with fishing gear. We will continue to post these articles as the become available.

Ottawa asks mariners to be especially careful about right whales

Canadian Press
July 9/2001

   HALIFAX - For the first time, Canada is asking mariners to be on the lookout for endangered right whales off the coast of Nova Scotia this summer.
   The federal Fisheries Department issued the plea recently in a letter sent to more than 300 mariners. In the letter the department urges them to limit their activity near the whales and offers suggestions for avoiding collisions.
    The letter is a step beyond the department's usual warnings to mariners that whales are in the area.
   "It is a plea to be careful," said department spokesman Jerry Conway.
   "The population is in such dire straits, really, that we need every one of the calves born this year to survive in order to see the [species] survive. "
    Each summer, the giant gentle mammals make their way up the eastern seaboard to feed in the plankton rich waters of the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. About 200 whales are expected in the bay this summer, along with 20 new whale calves born this year.
   The whales are often killed in collisions with ships or become entangled in fishing gear. Scientists estimate only 300 are left.
    The department decided to issue the letter after the birth of 30 right whale calves off the coast of Florida and Georgia this winter, said Mr. Conway.
   Already, two of the baby whales have died in collisions with ships.
    Response to the letter has been favourable, he said, with some shipping companies asking for more information.
    "Hopefully we will have a successful year.
   "By successful I mean no ship strikes and no entanglements," Mr. Conway said.
    In the past nine years, three right whales were confirmed killed by ships in the Bay of Fundy.

Right whale's chances of survival 'slim:' spokeswoman
STUCK IN PORT:A group of scientists fails in its attempt to remove a rope entangled in the endangered whale's jaw.

Associated Press
July 11/2001

   PROVINCETOWN, Mass. Choppy seas and poor visibility thwarted marine scientists' attempt yesterday to aid an endangered North Atlantic right whale with rope entangled in its jaw.
   Teri Frady, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Services, said scientists located the whale, dubbed Churchill, but did not try to loosen or remove the line because of foul weather.
    "We certainly are still hopeful that we can do some good, but the longer this goes on the higher the risk for the whale and for us," Ms. Frady said. "His prospects are not good and his chances are still slim."
   The heavy nylon fishing rope has caused a serious infection that could eventually kill the 15-metre-long, 40tonne male whale, one of only about 300 North Atlantic right whales left in the world.
   The whale was first spotted June 8, about 130 kilometres east of Cape Cod. It has since been spotted swimming alone and in circles. A buoy remained attached to the fishing line.
   The disentanglement team attempted last month to sedate the whale and loosen or remove the rope but the effort failed. Poor weather has kept the rescue crews in port since last week.
    Yesterday, the rescuers left Provincetown Harbor at about 7:15 a.m. to meet the whale, last tracked about 70 kilometres off Cape Cod.
   Ms. Frady said that after a plane located a satellite buoy attached to the whale, marine scientists spent about four hours near the whale, with the last hour spent in thick fog.
    The crew did manage to take a biopsy, and also attempted to use thermal imaging to learn about its health.
   Ms. Frady said the crew saw other whales in the area, suggesting there is enough food for the whale.
   Scientists ruled out another attempt to remove the line today, saying the weather was forecast to be too bad for the delicate mission.

Efforts to save right whale hurt by red tape, competing interests

Associated Press
July 13/2001

    BOSTON - After three failed rescue a rare right whale with marine rope jammed in its jaw off the of Cape Cod is likely to become the third human-caused right whale death this year.
   The death of the 45-tonne whale, dubbed Churchill, would be a major blow to the fragile North Atlantic right whale population, but some say the situation highlights difficulties in efforts to protect the endangered species numbers about 300.
   Competing interests in the fishing, shipping and conservation communities clogged a process already hampered by inadequate funding, critics say.
   "We're still losing whales," said Ann Bucklin of the Northeast Consortium, which funds co-operative research into fishing gear modifications. "That's unacceptable."
   Fishing gear entanglements and ship strike's are the top known human caused killers of the whales. Regulations to reduce both risks have been enacted since 1997, though conservationists say more is needed.
    But developing new fishing gear in conjunction with fishers takes time. Meanwhile, the federal government doesn't have, direct control over international shippers, further complicating efforts to slow down ships or route them around whale feeding areas.
   "We are trying to merge a lot of viewpoints and strike that middle balance," said Teri Frady, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "It is an involved process, it's a public process and it takes time. "
   For the past four weeks, scientists have been monitoring the deteriorating condition of Churchill about 160 kilometres off Cape Cod. They've tried twice unsuccessfully to sedate the whale, and other attempts to disentangle the line have not worked. An infection caused by the line will likely prove fatal, scientists say.
   The population of the right whale is threatened by recent low birth rates said Moira Brown, a scientist with the Center for Coastal Studies. This year's encouraging report of 30 new calves came after years of bad news, as births dropped from 22 in 1996 to one in 2000. But four of the new calves have died.
   The whales feed in shipping lanes, and huge vessels travelling at up to 20 knots can't see them and can't stop quickly enough to avoid them.
   Nina Young of The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington-based environmental group, advocates ship travel at a whale-safe speed of 10 to 13 knots, but ship owners are reluctant because of the loss of efficiency.
   Moving shipping lanes requires approval by the International Maritime Organization, which the federal government has no direct control over, though Ms. Frady said international shippers have said they want to protect the whale.
   Fixed fishing gear - such as vertical lines on lobster traps and gillnets - is also a danger.
   Modifications aim to weaken the gear enough so an entangled whale can break free, but not so much that fishermen can't use it.
   Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, said new gear needs time to work, and added entanglements with fishing gear are relatively rare.
    "Fishermen are always getting blamed, and they' re getting sick of it," Mr. Adler said. "They're getting belligerent. Some are saying, 'Maybe it's time for the whale to go extinct. ' "
   Right Whale advocates are asking for $10-million (U.S.) in federal funding next year, about double the amount allotted to protect the whale this year, Ms. Bucklin said. But approval is questionable, the bureaucracy is thick, and time is short.
   Ultimately, that leaves the longterm prospects of saving the whale uncertain, said Marilyn Marx, a whale expert at the New England Aquarium.
   "I think it's possible," Ms. Marx said. "I don't know if it's really probable."

Entangled whale likely doomed, officials say

Associated Press
July 14/2001

    BOSTON - After three failed rescue attempts, a rare right whale with marine rope jammed in its jaw off the coast of Cape Cod is likely to become the third to die this year because of contact with ships or fishing gear.
   The death of the 45-tonne whale, dubbed Churchill, would be a major blow to the fragile North Atlantic right whale population, but some say the situation highlights difficulties in efforts to protect the endangered species that numbers about 300.
   Competing interests in the fishing, shipping and conservation communities have clogged a process already hampered by inadequate funding, critics say.
    "We're still losing whales," said Ann Bucklin of the Northeast Consortium, which funds co-operative research into fishing gear modifications. "That's unacceptable."
    Fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes are the top known manmade killers of the whales. Regulations to reduce both risks have been enacted since 1997, though conservationists say more is needed.
   But developing new fishing gear in conjunction with fishermen takes time. Meanwhile, the federal government doesn't have direct control over international shippers, further complicating efforts to slow down ships or route them around whale feeding areas.
    "We are trying to merge a lot of viewpoints and strike that middle balance," said Teri Frady, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "It is an involved process, it's a public process and it takes time."
   The right whale got its name from whalers because its abundant blubber and buoyancy after death made it the "right" whale to kill. It's been in trouble in the North Atlantic since the 13th century, when as many as 60,000 were killed.
   For the past four weeks, scientists have been monitoring the deteriorating condition of Churchill about 160 kilometres off Cape Cod. They've tried twice unsuccessfully to sedate the whale, and other attempts to disentangle the line have, not worked. An infection caused by the line will likely prove fatal, scientists say.
   The population of the right whale is threatened by recent low birth rates, said Moira Brown, a scientist with the Center for Coastal Studies. This year's encouraging report of 30 new calves came after years of bad news, as births dropped from 22 in 1996 to one in 2000. But four of the new calves have died.
    "This is one of those unfortunate species that interacts with man entirely to its detriment," Ms. Bucklin said.
   The whales feed in shipping lanes, and huge vessels travelling at up to 20 knots can't see them and can't stop quickly enough to avoid them.
   Nina Young of The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington-based environmental group, advocates ship travel at a whale-safe speed of 10 to 13 knots, but ship owners are reluctant because of the loss of efficiency.
   Moving shipping lanes requires approval by the International Maritime Organization, which the federal government has no direct control over, though Ms. Frady said international shippers have said they want to protect the whale.
    Fixed fishing gear - such as vertical lines on lobster traps and gillnets - is also a danger.
   Modifications aim to weaken the gear enough so an entangled whale can break free, but not so much that fishermen can't use it.
   Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, said new gear needs time to work, and added entanglements with fishing gear are relatively rare.
   "Fishermen are always getting blamed, and they're getting sick of it," Mr. Adler said. "They're getting belligerent. Some are saying, 'Maybe it's time for the whale to go extinct."'
   Right whale advocates are asking for $10 million in federal funding next year, about double the amount allotted to protect the whale this year, Mr. Bucklin said. But approval is questionable, the bureaucracy is thick, and time is short.
   Ultimately, that leaves the longterm prospects of saving the whale uncertain, said Marilyn Marx, a whale expert at the New England Aquarium.
   "I think it's possible," Ms. Marx said. "I don't know if it's really probable.'

Third right whale rescue attempt fails

Associated Press
July 16/2001

   PROVINCETOWN, Mass. - Scientists attempting to rescue a North Atlantic right whale entangled in rope could not sedate the massive animal or work the thick plastic line free from its jaw Saturday.
   Weather conditions were optimal when rescuers reached the whale about 135 kilometres east of Cape Cod, said National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Teri Frady.
   "They tried sedatives, a tail harness and regular pressure techniques. The line won't budge," Ms. Frady said.
    Ms. Frady said scientists from the Center for Coastal Studies twice attempted to sedate the rare 45-tonne mammal.
    "Whatever happened, it wasn't effective enough slowing the whale," she said.
   Scientists have said even if their efforts are successful, the whale, dubbed Churchill, will likely die from an infection caused by the rope.
    According to Ms. Frady, the whale "appears entirely white. It has lost a good deal of its black gloss, which is not a good sign. "
   Near-ideal conditions at sea made it possible for rescuers to stay with the whale from shortly after noon Saturday, when it was spotted, until nightfall, when the attempt was called off, Ms. Frady said.
   Scientists administered a sedative to the whale during a rescue attempt June 26, the first time a right whale had been injected with a sedative. But the dosage was wrong, and the sedative had no affect on the animal.
   A second rescue attempt Tuesday failed because of rough seas.
    There are only about 300 North Atlantic right whales left.

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