An endangered North Atlantic Right whale was spotted by scientists dragging a length of fishing rope caught in its mouth as it swam with a newborn calf off the Georgia coast.
Experts determined that it wasn’t safe for them to attempt to help remove the fishing rope from the endangered whale’s mouth.
An aerial survey team said the baby whale appeared to be healthy and uninjured.
Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 350 surviving North Atlantic Right Whales left.
Science experts think that the whale has been dragging the fishing rope for nine months due to the unique markings on its head.
Wildlife experts managed to shorten the rope before the whale headed south but couldn’t free it. George said the response team concluded that any attempt to remove or further shorten the fishing rope would pose too great a risk to the whale and the boat crew.
“We haven’t seen a chronically entangled whale come down here from up north and have a calf,” Clay George said, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s amazing. But on the other hand, it could ultimately be a death sentence for her.”
Scientists think that because the fishing rope is still stuck in the whale’s mouth, it could cause problems when it’s time to feed the calf.
My concern is she’s still got two pieces of rope, about 20 feet, coming out from the left side of her mouth. If those two pieces of rope ended up getting knotted around each other and there’s a loop, you could imagine that calf could end up becoming entangled.”
Scientists say entanglement with fishing gear and collisions with ships are killing Right Whales faster than they can reproduce.