High Seas

Dec 9, 2005 2:46pm

Friday afternoon

About 20 miles off the coast of South Carolina, there is a right whale tangled in a fishing line, racing up and down the coastline, thrashing in the water, trying to get free.  Teams from the U.S. Coast Guard, the NOAA Fisheries Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and a couple of environmental groups have assembled to get the whale free.

Seems like a lot of effort for one unfortunate animal, but there are only about 300 right whales left in the world.  They were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century, and their numbers have not come back.

The rescuers have already gone out once in a Coast Guard cutter to try to get it free.  They couldn’t manage it, but they did attach a tracking beacon, and its position is being watched by the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass.

We made a try at a story this morning, but pictures are limited.  We’ll keep watching it; I’ve called a few of the various agencies and asked them to keep us in the loop. 

For the rescue team, the biggest problem is the weather.  They need to be confident of quiet weather for at least a couple of days.  They’ve already been waiting a week for a second chance to help the whale. They’ll hold another conference call tomorrow, and they’ll need a day to assemble after the all-clear. 

For the whales, the biggest problems are abandoned fishing gear and careless sailors.  Precisely this kind of situation has happened several times in the last couple of years.  A reminder that the oceans are a little smaller, perhaps, than we tend to think.

fisheries High Seas

(The picture is from NOAA. I’ve cropped it to keep from clogging your computer, but there’s more HERE.)

- Ned

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