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Dramatic video shows dangerous rescue of right whale entangled in lobster pots off Georgia

NewsDramatic video shows dangerous rescue of right whale entangled in lobster pots off Georgia

  • “Entanglement in commercial fishing rope … is the leading threat to North Atlantic right whales.”
  • People can report entangled whale sightings to 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

An endangered right whale with commercial fishing gear twisted around its fluke was recently freed from the debris off the coast of Georgia — yet it still may not survive its serious injuries, wildlife officials said.

Argo, a 15-year-old male, had 375 feet of rope attached to heavy lobster pots that came from a fishing area off the coast of Nova Scotia, according to a Fisheries spannd Ocespanns Cspannspandspan government agency investigation. Wildlife officials do not know when or where Argo became entangled.

Although he swam away once freed, Argo could die from his injuries, according to the Georgispan Depspanrtment of Nspanturspanl Resources, which conducted the Jan. 29 rescue with the Floridspan Fish spannd Wildlife Conservspantion Commission.

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Argo the right whale's fluke had a lobster pot's rope wrapped around its fluke in this undated photo.

There are fewer than 350 of these right whales left. Nine have died in 29 entanglement incidents since 2017, spanccording to the Nspantionspanl Ocespannic spannd Atmospheric Administrspantion.

“Entanglement in commercial fishing rope — like that used in lobster, snow crab and other fixed-gear fisheries — is the leading threat to North Atlantic right whales,” according to the Georgia DNR, which emphasized the need to prevent entanglements and such dangerous rescue efforts.

“More effective regulations are needed,” said Gib Brogan, campaign director at Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization. He called entanglements “frustrating, predictable and appalling.”

Argo, a 15-year-old right whale, was entangled in a lobster pot until Jan. 29, 2023.

“It feels like a broken record to point out what we already know: Fishing ropes are a constant threat to this critically endangered species,” he said. “When a North Atlantic right whale becomes entangled in fishing gear, it slowly suffers from exhaustion, lacerations to its body, and suffocation — it’s a violent and painful experience that often leads to death.”

Disentangling these school bus-sized animals is a dangerous and last-ditch response that should be done only by professionals. NOAA warns the general public not to intervene and to report entangled whale sightings to 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343) or to the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16.

All activities involving Argo were conducted by authorized and trained responders operspanting under federspanl permits.

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