Lethal entanglement in baleen whales
Cassoff, Rachel M.
Moore, Kathleen M. T.
McLellan, William A.
Barco, Susan G.
Rotstein, David S.
Moore, Michael J.
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KeywordBaleen whales; Entanglement; Mortality; Cetacean; Strandings; Fishing gear; Necropsy; Northwestern Atlantic
Understanding the scenarios whereby fishing gear entanglement of large whales induces mortality is important for the development of mitigation strategies. Here we present a series of 21 cases involving 4 species of baleen whales in the NW Atlantic, describing the available sighting history, necropsy observations, and subsequent data analyses that enabled the compilation of the manners in which entanglement can be lethal. The single acute cause of entanglement mortality identified was drowning from entanglement involving multiple body parts, with the animal’s inability to surface. More protracted causes of death included impaired foraging during entanglement, resulting in starvation after many months; systemic infection arising from open, unresolved entanglement wounds; and hemorrhage or debilitation due to severe gear-related damage to tissues. Serious gear-induced injury can include laceration of large vessels, occlusion of the nares, embedding of line in growing bone, and massive periosteal proliferation of new bone in an attempt to wall off constricting, encircling lines. These data show that baleen whale entanglement is not only a major issue for the conservation of some baleen whale populations, but is also a major concern for the welfare of each affected individual.
Author Posting. © Inter-Research, 2011. This article is posted here by permission of Inter-Research for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 96 (2011): 175-185, doi:10.3354/dao02385.
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