DAO - Vol. 96, No. 3 - Feature article

Location, recovery, beaching, necropsy and disposal of large dead whales pose unique challenges. However, examination of chronically entangled whale mortalities enables mitigation by modification of fishing gear and practices. Photo: Cynthia Browning

Cassoff RM, Moore KM, McLellan WA, Barco SG, Rotstein DS, Moore MJ


Lethal entanglement in baleen whales


Entanglement of baleen whales in fishing gear can range from acute, involving the drowning of relatively small animals, to transient self-limiting, to chronic entanglement of more powerful individuals tearing off line or net from anchored gear. If chronic entanglement causes severe constrictive injuries, slow debilitation and death can result. Cassoff and co-workers examined 21 individuals post-mortem from 4 species of baleen whales that died from entanglement, to describe the pathobiology of this syndrome in its various forms. This work highlights the impact entanglements have on the welfare of individual animals and population conservation status. Their analysis is a critical step towards the design of fishing practices and gear that will reduce entanglement morbidity and mortality in whales


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