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

in the dose resulted in a marked switch from the expected evasiveness. An hour after injection of sedatives, the animal no longer evaded boat approaches, but instead tolerated repeated close approaches by a disentanglement boat to allow removal of 90 percent of the remaining rope. Veterinarians on the team calculated the dosage based on experience sedating animals in captivity, starting low through the clinical range until they found a safe and effective level.

"Our prior experience with using these drugs safely in dolphins, beluga whales, killer whales and other species gave us the initial levels of sedatives to start with," said Mike Walsh a veterinarian and associate director of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine's Aquatic Animal Health program.

"Our first attempts with sedatives in a previous animal were not as promising as hoped so we moved on to another sedative combination that has helped clinicians to get access to animals that may be less cooperative," Walsh said. "This technique may greatly expand the options for the disentanglement teams dealing with these severely compromised whales, and the whales themselves. It is very exciting to be able to see it have an effect in an animal so large."

The animal remains in very poor condition and has a guarded prognosis, but the disentanglement will give it a better chance for survival.

The North Atlantic right whale is the most endangered great whale, with a population of less than 400. Human activityparticularly ship collisions and entanglement in commercial fishing gearis the most common cause of North Atlantic right whale deaths.

"This use of sedatives in a large free-ranging whale is novel and an exciting new tool in the large whale disentanglement toolbox," said Moore. "However, it does not address the underlying problem of how to enable fixed-gear fisheries to pursue a profitable business, without jeopardizing the survival of endangered specie
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Contact: Stephanie Murphy
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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