The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund Commits $900,000 To Protect Critically Endangered North Atlantic Right WhalesNovember 14, 2019
An emaciated, entangled North Atlantic right whale swimming with fishing trap rope around both flippers, through its mouth, and dragging behind it. It died a month later from emaciation and ultimately shark-inflicted wounds. © Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, NOAA Permit #594-1759
The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund announced that it has committed $900,000 over the next three years in the fight to save the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.
Working in partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the funding will be primarily used to test alternative non-lethal fishing gear. Entanglements in trap and pot fishing gear are a serious threat to many endangered whales and sea turtles. Approximately 85 percent of all North Atlantic right whales bear scars from being entangled in fishing gear at least once in their lives, and over 50 percent have been entangled at least twice. Eighty-two percent of documented North Atlantic right whale mortality is attributable to fishing gear entanglements.
Status quo for the entanglement risk of trap fishing. Illustration Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Removing this end line from trap and pot fishing gear will significantly reduce or even eliminate entanglements. There are promising prototypes available for evaluation by scientists, regulators and fishermen, but few resources for proper testing of these systems. Support by the SeaWorld Conservation Fund will be used to evaluate the cost, the operational impact to the fishermen and the safety for the whales, as well as advance public awareness of the issues.
Proposed buoyless alternative. Trap is acoustically located, identified and retrieved. Illustration Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Dr. Hendrik Nollens is the Corporate Vice President of Animal Health and Welfare at SeaWorld and President of the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. “The Fund is dedicated to helping species in need, and we are proud to partner with Woods Hole on this critical initiative. The plight of the North Atlantic right whale is yet another symptom of man’s impact on the very same ocean on which a large and growing part of the U.S. economy relies. Time is running out but it is our hope to be a key partner in saving this species.”