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Right whale sedation enables disentanglement effort
Date:3/11/2009

disentanglement is a major limit to successful resolution of complex cases. Over the past 10 years WHOI, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries and two veterinary schools at the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin have developed a sedation system to slow the animals and make them more approachable by rescue boats.

"The typical success rate for freeing right whales from fishing gear is about 50 percent due largely in part to the difficulties in getting close enough to cut the entangling gear," said Jamison Smith, NOAA's East Coast project leader for whale disentanglement. "We hope this new technique can improve the overall safety of the operations as well improve the chances of the whales's survival."

The animal (New England Aquarium catalog No: 3311) was first sighted entangled east of Brunswick, Ga., on Jan. 14, 2009, by the Georgia Wildlife Trust aerial survey team, which noted multiple lengths of heavy line cutting in to the whale's upper jaw and left lip and trailing behind the animal. It was tagged with a telemetry buoy by the Georgia DNR to allow it to be tracked.

A disentanglement attempt by FWC, GA-DNR, Coastwise Consulting, University of Florida, NOAA and WHOI was made on Jan. 22, east of Amelia Island, Fla., but the whale evaded all attempts to cut the lines. On Jan. 23 further disentanglement attempts were made, with the addition of a sedation dose, delivered by remote syringe and needle with no success.

The dose given appeared to make the animal feel less pain, but was not sedated enough to be more approachable. Further disentanglement attempts by GA-DNR and Coastwise Consulting failed on Feb. 1.

On March 5 the disentanglement team made another attempt, this time increasing the dosage used on Jan. 23. The sedative appeared to cause the whale to take shallower, more frequent breaths, but the animal continued to evade the boat's attempts to approach it. On Friday, March 6, a further increase
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Contact: Stephanie Murphy
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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