Did you know that the International Whaling Commission estimate that every year 300,000 cetaceans die each year worldwide from being entangled in fishing gear? Unfortunately, this is true. With the growth of humpback and gray whale populations, more and more entangled whales are being reported in Washington and British Columbia. On Tuesday, Oct. 10, Doug Sandilands, a leader in the field of large whale entanglement response, will give a free-marine lecture on this topic at 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall.
Entangled whales are often identified by fishers, whale watchers or the general public who see a whale with lines wrapped around it or towing gear like crab pots. As long as they can make it to the surface to breath, large whales are rarely in immediate danger of dying from an entanglement but can die from it over time.
Despite some people’s perception that whales probably “know” you are trying to help them and allow you to cut them free, disentangling whales is dangerous. In fact, last year a highly trained responder died during a disentanglement attempt.
Sandilands will discuss the problem of whale entanglement as well as current local and nationwide efforts to disentangle large whales. He has been involved in more than 40 large whale disentanglement attempts and has helped train nearly 60 additional large whale entanglement responders. Currently he works for a Seattle-based non-profit SR3 SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research.
If you can’t attend the lecture, it is important to know that you should never attempt to disentangle a whale. Cutting rope trailing behind an entangled whale often leaves the life threatening gear on the whale and makes it way harder for a response team to help. Instead, if you see an entangled whale, call the reporting hotline (866-767-9425), stay with the whale, and take pictures and video from 100 yards away until the response team arrives.
The 2017-2018 Marine Science Lecture Series is designed to inspire the general public and to highlight the amazing fish and wildlife of our region. Lectures are free.