Canadian lobster gear has been identified as the likely culprit in the near-drowning of a rare North Atlantic right whale, according to an alert issued by the U.S. government's oceanic agency about a sudden spike in the number of entanglements threatening one of North America's most endangered species.
With fewer than 400 of the giant mammals known to exist, any report of a North Atlantic right whale in distress in U.S. waters triggers a rapid response by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies mandated to protect the species.
In late December, rescue crews raced to an area off the coast of Florida to free two right whales that had become entangled in fishing lines somewhere along their East Coast migration route.
One of the animals, born in 2007 and known only as "calf of right whale 1701," had been spotted last September free of fishing lines and feeding in the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The effort to free those whales proved successful, and NOAA has now released a statement saying researchers "have preliminarily identified the gear removed from one of these whales as Canadian lobster gear."
Canadian Whale Institute spokesman Jerry Conway told Canwest News Service in a recent interview. "Canada has taken the position that this is not an issue of serious concern."
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