Simple change to fishing nets could save endangered whales’ lives

Making ropes weaker would reduce humpback and right whale bycatch by almost three-quarters


CAUGHT  Entangled whales could break free more easily if fishing ropes were weaker. This young right whale died in 2011 after two attempts to free it.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Entanglement in commercial fishing gear kills or seriously injures about 3 right whales and nearly 10 humpback whales every year off the U.S. coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Marine Mammal Protection Act allows only about 1 right and 3 humpback whales to be “removed” annually.

In a forthcoming issue of Conservation Biology, scientists calculate that weakening ropes by around 35 percent would help almost three-quarters of entangled whales break free. This reduction would not damage commercial fishing yields and would cut whale deaths to legal levels, the scientists say.

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