Whale entanglement is a growing problem. It’s hard to assess the full extent, but a recent report estimated that 308,000 whales and dolphins die annually due to entanglement in fishing gear, and more still in marine debris. Entanglement can lead to drowning, laceration, infection and starvation. It also presents serious safety issues for those involved in disentangling the whales. The IWC is working with a group of international experts to build a global network of professionally trained and equipped entanglement responders.
Disentangling wild, often injured animals at sea can be difficult and dangerous. Some countries have already developed national disentanglement programmes. The leaders of these programmes have come together under the auspices of the IWC, to help extend and strengthen capacity to respond to entangled whales around the world.
The programme began in autumn 2011. The first training workshop was held in March 2012. Since then it has reached more than 500 scientists, conservationists and government representatives from over 20 countries.
Accurate assessment of the problem is hard. Some whales free themselves, many are never seen, and even in regions with well-established networks, only one in ten entanglements are reported. The growing, global network of trained responders will be able to collect more consistent data which can be used to build a clearer understanding of what and where are the biggest causes of entanglement. This information is important to achieving the ultimate goal of finding ways to prevent entanglement happening in the first place.
Click here for more information about members of the IWC Whale Entanglement Response Network
Click here to watch a short video clip from a recent entanglement workshop
Click here for an image gallery on whale entanglement
Click here to read a report of an IWC workshop on marine debris