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Disentanglements for Right Whales Remain on Hold as Accident Investigation Continues

CCS image, NOAA permit #19315
Four North Atlantic right whales feeding on zooplankton in Cape Cod Bay, April 12, 2017.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association today announced it has lifted the suspension of whale entanglement efforts on all species except North Atlantic right whales.

The suspension was triggered by the tragic death last week of Canadian responder Joe Howlett, who was killed while freeing a right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"The National Marine Fisheries Service decided that they wanted to understand what happened, take stock of the situation, and basically review the protocols that all of us are using to disentangle whales, whether we're in Alaska, Hawaii, or Cape Cod," said Scott Landry, Director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

The suspension of disentanglements remains in effect for right whales, as the Canadian government pursues an investigation into Howlett's death.  "That's something we agree with and find perfectly reasonable," Landry said. "It's just, obviously, frustrating and difficult, because we may be faced with a right whale even today."

Landry pointed out that this is time of year is not typically a big season for right whales around Cape Cod. "But anything can happen," he said.

Mariners who come across an entangled whale or sea turtle are asked to call the Marine Animal Entanglement Response emergency hotline, 800-900-3622, or the US Coast Guard on Channel 16, then stand by until responders arrive.


Steve is Managing Editor of News. He came to WCAI in 2007. He also hosts the weekly News Roundup on Friday mornings and produces The Fishing News.