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How damaging are fishing nets to whales?

a year ago

‘Scars From Above’ reveals hidden humpback secrets

Research group Whale Wise has taken aerial videos of humpback whales swimming off the coast of Iceland using drones to see how net entanglement is affecting their populations.

Whales with entanglement scars may be thinner or in worse condition than they should be, which could mean that entanglement causes stress or affects whale feeding habits.

How do you keep track of the whales?

The team is working closely with local tourist groups and fishers to film humpback whales and learn about the potential impacts of the fishing industry.

Whale Wise collected whale snot from Iceland last year to get a better understanding of humpback health. They recognize some of the returning whales, including one nicknamed Four Eyes.

How damaging are fishing nets to whales?

Scientists already know that entanglement in nets causes a high mortality rate among whales, and a 2019 study found that 25 per cent of humpback whales surveyed bearing entanglement scars.

What can whales tell us about the wider ecosystem?

Humpback whale body condition could be an important marker for the long-term health of the ecosystem, since it indicates the health of the krill and other small fish populations that support the humpback whales.

So why is Whale Wise doing this?

The team is hoping that the threat of entanglement to humpback whales will be taken more seriously and action can be taken to protect the ocean's gentle giants.


Vocabulary List

  • Humpback whales: A type of whale with long fins and bumps on its back
  • Entanglement: When something becomes wrapped up in something else, like a fishing net
  • Aerial: From the air, like a bird would see
  • Drones: A small flying machine that is controlled by a person on the ground
  • Body condition: The overall physical health and fitness of an animal
  • Stress: A feeling of being overwhelmed or anxious
  • Feeding habits: The way an animal eats, including what and when it eats
  • Species: A group of animals that are the same kind, like lions or whales
  • Monitor: To watch something over a period of time to see how it changes
  • Marine mammal: an animal that lives in the sea and is warm-blooded, like a whale or dolphin
  • Fishing net: a large net used to catch fish in the ocean
  • Entanglement: when something gets stuck in a fishing net
  • Whale snot: the spray of water that comes out of a whale's blowhole
  • krill: a type of small shrimp-like crustacean that lives in the ocean
  • Gentle giants: a phrase used to describe large animals that are not dangerous, like whales

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think of the use of drones in whale research?
  2. How can we reduce the risk of whale entanglement in fishing nets?
  3. What do you think are the potential consequences of fishing nets on whales?

Photo: Richard Sagredo on Unsplash
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Bianca Skye ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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