Whale Entanglement - Building A Global Response
October 1, 2016
Whale entanglement is a growing problem. It's hard to assess the full extent, but a recent report estimated that 308,000 whales and dolphins die annually due to entanglement in fishing gear, and more still in marine debris.
Entanglement can lead to drowning, laceration, infection and starvation. It also presents serious safety issues for those involved in disentangling the whales. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is working with a group of international experts to build a global network of professionally trained and equipped entanglement responders.
Disentangling wild, often injured animals at sea can be difficult and dangerous. Some countries have already developed national disentanglement programs. The leaders of these programs have come together under the auspices of the IWC, to help extend and strengthen capacity to respond to entangled whales around the world.
The program began in autumn 2011. The first training workshop was held in March 2012. Since then, it has reached more than 500 scientists, conservationists and government representatives from over 20 countries.
Accurate assessment of the problem is hard. Some whales free themselves, many are never seen, and even in regions with well-established networks, only one in ten entanglements are reported.
The growing, global network of trained responders will be able to collect more consistent data that can be used to build a clearer understanding of what and where are the biggest causes of entanglement. This information is important to achieving the ultimate goal of finding ways to prevent entanglement's happening in the first place.