A right whale found entangled in lobster fishing gear off the southern United States has been disentangled by U.S. marine mammal rescue responders.
An investigation by U.S. officials and Fisheries and Oceans Canada has determined the gear was from Lobster Fishing Area 33 in southern Nova Scotia, according to a DFO release.
The adult whale is identified officially as North Atlantic right whale 1218 and known as Argo.
Authorities are investigating a second entanglement that occurred over the weekend of Jan. 21.
North Atlantic right whales are an endangered species with a estimated population of 336 individuals, including 70 breeding females.
According to the release, it is the first entanglement connected to the Canada’s lobster fishery in five years.
The release said the harvester reported the lost gear to DFO.
In 2017, 12 endangered right whales died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Two deaths were blamed on entanglement in Canadian snow crab gear. Five more died in U.S. waters.
Adam Burns, senior assistant deputy minister of fisheries and harbour management with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the circumstances of the entanglement and how the gear travelled so far is being investigated.
“This reinforces the importance of our ghost gear retrieval efforts that have been underway now for a few years,” said Burns.
The Maritime Fishermen’s Union did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier disentanglement also a success
In the earlier case, North Atlantic right whale 3812, a 15-year-old male known as Nimbus, was also successfully disentangled by U.S. marine mammal responders.
The cause of that entanglement is unknown.
“Every entanglement is concerning and we design our measures in Canada to avoid entanglements,” said Burns.
“Each time an entanglement does occur, whether it’s from Canadian or U.S. gear, we seek to learn as much as we can so we can continue to refine and improve our measures.”
Burns said his department is working with harvesters to test whale-safe fishing gear technology.