One of the dangers whales face is entanglement in fishing gear such as longlines, traps and pots. When officials become aware of these events, disentanglement teams are sent out to assess the situation and free the whales whenever possible.
Some researchers have worried that the stress of being caught in fishing gear and the prolonged exposure to humans during the rescue might permanently affect the whales, possibly hindering their ability to reproduce. But this birthing season, three formerly entangled right whales were spotted and photographed with their calves, The Washington Post reports.
Equator, so named for the rope scar around her middle, was seen with her newborn near Little Saint Simon’s island off the Georgia coast. Four years ago, she had been ensnared in 300 feet of fishing line that was cutting into her body. A disentanglement team maneuvered their boat close enough to cut off three of the ropes and the fourth eventually fell off on its own.
Arpeggio was spotted with her new calf off of nearby Jekyll Island after being rescued from entanglement in 1999—over a decade ago!—in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
Wart, a new mom, was spotted off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, having given birth since her May 2010 rescue.
Going forward, the National Marine Fisheries Service expects more rescued whales to fully recover and successfully reproduce. The increasing number of state-run disentanglement teams reduces the time whales must endure fishing gear while they await help, and new rescue methods have the potential to decrease stress to the whale by keeping humans at a distance.
These improvements are especially welcome news for the North Atlantic Right Whale, the most endangered whale species in the world. With less than 400 individuals in the population, it’s encouraging to know that rescue efforts open possibilities for new life.