Health Implications of Entanglements of Large Whales

The goal of this project will be to evaluate photographic, necropsy and other data obtained from North Atlantic large whales observed entangled in fishing gear over the past two decades to determine the potential short- and long-term health effects of these entanglements. Entanglement in fishing gear is a source of injury and mortality to large whales, but the magnitude of lethal and sub-lethal events is not well-understood. The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) will use mark-recapture statistical modeling and other approaches to estimate entanglement survival and fecundity impacts on Gulf of Maine humpback whales. It will also collaborate with New England Aquarium (NEAq) to produce comparable estimates for North Atlantic right whales. Entanglement survival and fecundity will be estimated relative to unexposed animals from the same population and will evaluate factors such as animal age class, sex and entanglement severity. In addition the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will undertake an analysis of necropsy reports of large whales that have been examined and shown to have died from entanglement in the past two decades. The product of the study will be three papers published in the peer reviewed literature, reflecting analyses of the right whale, and humpback whale markrecapture and fecundity studies, and the necropsy analyses. The first two papers are described in the sub contract proposals from PCCS and NEAq respectively. The third paper is outlined below.