A total of 46 whales were confirmed as entangled in fishing gear off the West Coast in 2018, more than the previous year, but slightly lower than the historic highs of 2015 and 2016. The number of entanglements remained above levels prior to 2014, when the average number was less than 10.
The numbers are included in a new report on West Coast whale entanglements in 2018. The report breaks down the number of entanglements by species of whale, location, month of the year, and type of fishing gear involved. Response teams either fully or partially disentangled three of the whales, and in at least two other cases the fishing gear came loose on its own.
NOAA Fisheries and other partners are researching the different factors that may be contributing to the entanglements, including:
- Changing ocean conditions that may affect the distribution of the whales’ prey
- Shifting patterns in fishing and other human activities
- Increased public visibility and reporting of entanglements
- Increasing numbers of whales as species recover from the whaling era
The report also highlights efforts to reduce entanglements. For example, working groups in California, Washington, and Oregon have brought together fishermen, scientists, and managers of marine resources to pursue solutions such as new fishing gear designs less likely to entangle whales. NOAA Fisheries and its partners have trained additional entanglement teams to increase the capacity to reach and disentangle whales.
Attempting to disentangle whales is very dangerous and should be attempted only by trained response teams. Prompt reporting is the best way for the public to help entangled whales. Report entangled whales to our 24/7 hotline by calling 1-877-SOS-WHALE (1-877-767-9425) or hailing the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16. Please stay with the whale as long as it is safe to do so. Please try to get video or photos showing the entangling gear but remember to stay 100 yards from the whale and beware that lines in the water could snag your vessel.