Whale Disentanglement and the NOAA

Disentangling whales from commercial fishing gear and just about anything else we put into oceans is an increasingly growing concern. More whales, more whale watchers, and more ways for commercial fishers and others to report entanglements, means more work for the 75 NOAA certified disentanglers located along North America’s east and west coasts. They work on whales of all sizes including humpback, North Atlantic right, sperm, minke, fin, sei, and blue whales. It’s the North Atlantic Right Whale that poses the greatest challenge due to their size and strength – 83% of their estimated 500 population already having experienced entanglements – many on multiple occasions.

What to Do…

Should you encounter an entangled whale, the following five steps should be followed to maximize the whale’s chances of being untangled, and to safeguard your own wellbeing.

  • Report the entanglement sightings as soon as possible, to our hotline 866-755-6622 or by radioing the Coast Guard on Channel 16 of your VHF radio.
  • Take pictures or video of the entanglement and record the location of the sighting. More information helps responders be better prepared.
  • Stay back—entangled animals are animals in pain or discomfort. Protect yourselves, your passengers, and the whales by keeping a safe distance. Do not travel directly behind the whale as unseen lines may be trailing.
  • Never attempt disentanglement on your own. This is illegal, dangerous, and could make the entanglement more lethal for the animal if the wrong rope is cut.
  • If you can, stand by the animal until rescuers arrive, or arrange for other vessels to stand by. An animal with no standby is less likely to be found again.