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Study reveals how fishing gear can cause slow death of whales
Date:5/21/2013

ied a Dtag. Then they administered a carefully calculated sedative with a dart gun developed for large whale drug delivery by Paxarms NZ in collaboration with Dr. Michael Moore, director of the Marine Mammal Center at WHOI and a marine mammal veterinarian. The becalmed whale allowed the team to approach and remove nearly all the fishing gear.

The Dtag measured 152 dives that Eg 3911 took over six hours. There were no significant differences in depth or duration of dives after sedation, but "the whale altered its behavior immediately following disentanglement," the scientists reported. "The near-complete disentanglement of Eg 3911 resulted in significant increases in dive duration and depth."

"Together, the effects of added buoyancy, added drag, and reduced swimming speed due to towing accessory gear pose many threats to entangled whales," the scientists wrote. Buoyant gear may overwhelm animals' ability to descend to depths to forage on preferred prey. Increased drag can reduce swimming speeds, delaying whales' timely arrival to feeding or breeding grounds. "Most significant, however, is the energy drain associated with added drag," they said.

To calculate that drain, the scientists, in a separate experiment, towed three types of fishing gear from a skiff, using tensiometers to measure the drag forces acting on Eg 3911. They then calculated how much more energy whales would require to compensate for the drag. The results: Entangled whales have significantly higher energy demands, requiring 70 to 102 percent more power to swim at the same speed unentangled; or alternatively, they need to slow down their swimming speed by 16 to 20.5 percent.

The study provides the first data on the behavioral impacts of sedation and disentanglement and the energetic cost of entanglement in fishing gear due to drag.

On Feb. 1, 2011, an aerial survey observed Eg 3911 dead at sea.

"She didn't make it," van der Hoop said. The whale wa
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Contact: Media Relations Office
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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