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Progress made on disentangling North Atlantic right whale

A member of a necropsy team peers into the mouth of a North Atlantic right whale, Comet, after it was pulled onto a beach in Norway, P.E.I. last month so that a necropsy could be performed. Preliminary findings suggested the whale died of blunt trauma. Rescuers are working this week to locate and free three whales reported to be entangled in rope and gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. - Journal Pioneer file photo
A member of a necropsy team peers into the mouth of a North Atlantic right whale, Comet, after it was pulled onto a beach in Norway, P.E.I. last month so that a necropsy could be performed. Preliminary findings suggested the whale died of blunt trauma. Rescuers are working this week to locate and free three whales reported to be entangled in rope and gear in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. - SaltWire file photo

DFO, Coast Guard personnel searching for ghost gear

Progress was made this week in efforts to free two of three North Atlantic right whales entangled in rope. 

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported that on Tuesday, after several days of challenging weather conditions, DFO, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Campobello Whale Rescue Team were able to resume efforts to search for and attempt to rescue three whales that had been previously observed entangled in rope and fishing gear.

A surveillance flight spotted whale EG#4423 around 11 a.m. Rescuers had managed to partially disentangle that marine mammal on July 11 before their efforts were called off at dusk. 

On Tuesday additional cuts were made to the rope which helped shift the load. 

Later Tuesday, around 4:45, a second whale, EG#4440 was spotted and Campobello team members subsequently cut away rope running from the whale’s mouth to its tail but not all gear could be successfully removed. 

Whale EG#4423 was first observed entangled in Canadian waters east of Miscou Island on July 4, although there are reports suggesting it was spotted entangled in U.S. waters in April.

Whale EG#4440 was sighted entangled east of Miscou Island on June 29. It was re-sighted July 2 and July 5 with rope around its tail stock and it appeared to be dragging something heavy. 

Efforts to locate a third entangled whale are ongoing with five or more aircraft flying over the waters of Atlantic Canada in search of whales on any given day. 

Rescue efforts will resume when conditions permit, DFO reports. In the meantime, efforts will be made to assess from the air how Tuesday’s rescue efforts might have changed the entanglement configuration. 

On Thursday, DFO and Coast Guard personnel commenced a three-day sweep of areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the highest reports of lost gear, known as ghost gear. The intent is to get the gear out of the water to further protect the endangered right whales. 

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