Atlantic right whales heading out of Bay of Fundy
BY ALISON AULD
Dozens of rare
North Atlantic right whales that were lingering in the Bay of Fundy are finally
heading out of the area, amid fears that some could become ensnared in
dangerous fishing lines as they move south.
said Friday that there were as few as three of the massive mammals in the bay,
after more than 40 of them had delayed their departure by six weeks because of
an abundance of plankton.
Jerry Conway of the Department
of Fisheries said the endangered whales were trekking south on their annual
migration and were spotted in the Gulf of Maine as they venture toward waters
off Georgia and Florida.
But, he said he's received
unsubstantiated reports of whales becoming entangled in lengths of lobster line
that create a hazard for the slow-moving creatures as they pass through the
bay. Conway said fishermen have found some of their gear is missing, raising
the possibility that it may be wrapped around some whales.
"There may be two or three whales entangled in gear, he
said. "It has been suggested that there is gear missing that may be showing up
in the near future on whales."
One whale was apparently
freed from lobster gear by a fisherman who spotted it and managed to
disentangle it. The move came after the start of the lobster fishery was
delayed slightly by the whales' presence in the bay.
Lobster fishermen agreed not to set traps within two
kilometres of a whale in a bid to prevent entanglements, while the Fisheries
Department conducted aerial surveillance flights to track their movements.
Officials and conservation groups say the whale's
eventual departure caps a bleak season that saw the loss of two fe males and
the deaths of a calf and adult that were hit by ships in the summer feeding
Both females were killed in Canadian waters,
with one found to have 17 vertebrae in her back crushed in a ship collision.
"The loss of even one female right whale could have a
significant impact on the ability of the species to survive; said Conway. "The
loss of two is a really serious impact."