For approximately two months a humpback whale, feeding in Faxaflói Bay, Iceland, has been suffering from a bad entanglement. A fine mashed fishing net had coiled multiple times around the whale‘s tailstock and had already started to cut deep into the whale‘s skin. The fishing net was also wrapped around the whale’s body and threaded through its mouth.
Today, a group of specialists from the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW) teamed up with local whale watching companies and IceWhale representatives, managed miraculously to release the whale from the entanglement after many attempts the last days. The only piece of rope left on the whale will eventually grow out of the skin and, hopefully, only leave a deep scar behind. This individual humpback whale was particularly fortunate and thankfully local authorities responded quickly.
Photo credit: Guðlaugur Ottesen Karlsson - Icewhale
Marine debris is accumulating fast in our oceans causing a major threat to a number of different marine species. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world's oceans and waterways.
Entanglement is a major threat to larger marine animals, especially marine mammals. Entanglement is usually caused by drifting fishing gear, e.g. long lines and fine mashed gillnets. Also, gillnets left unattended within important feeding grounds of marine mammals, are causing major threats to this group of animals around the world. The smaller animals usually drown where they can’t free themselves from the nets, whereas the larger ones become entangled towing the gear behind them, usually ending up with exhaustion and eventually drowning or blood infection.
It is certainly our responsibility to clean up the oceans and acknowledge the harm we do to the marine environment with continual, irresponsible and careless littering into the oceans.
Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir
Marine biologist and a whale specialist at the University of Iceland