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Growing success: the IWC Global Whale Entanglement Response Network

IWC’s Global Whale Entanglement Response Network is meeting officially for the first time at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown.   Concern over the rising number of reported entanglements worldwide, the prolonged suffering caused, and the risk posed to humans attempting to release whales, led the IWC to develop an entanglement response capacity-building programme.  The programme began in 2012 and is a partnership with CCS who provide expertise, facilities and tools.  This month, a workshop will enable the experts who devised the programme to evaluate it with some of the new responders they helped to train.

Since 2012 almost 400 individuals from 18 countries have been taught safe and professional response techniques through the programme which aims to spread the experiences and best practice already developed in some regions to countries and coastlines all over the world.  The curriculum is wide ranging.  As well as demonstrating the tools and techniques required on the water, it covers the global and local context, risk assessment, safety protocols, legal aspects and information collection and dissemination.

One key aim of this month’s workshop is to review the current curriculum.  Participants will consider new information and developments, and also review the experiences and any lessons from the newly trained responders. 

The workshop will also discuss how best to determine the origin of the fishing gear and other entanglements, in order to develop understanding of which items pose the greatest hazard, where they originate and how far they have travelled.  This information is crucial in working towards the ultimate goal of avoiding entanglements occurring in the first place.  Collating this information is vital in order to build a comprehensive, meaningful picture of the nature and extent of the problem. 

A third important objective of the workshop is to consider how best to gather and sort data.  The IWC already manages a database recording collisions between ships and whales, and the group will consider whether this model also lends itself to the entanglement issue.

The entanglement response initiative is managed jointly by the IWC and the Center for Coastal Studies who pioneered the modern disentanglement techniques now used by most organised response networks around the world.  CCS has partnered with the IWC, sharing an expert to manage the programme, providing facilities and equipment, and also hosting the workshop.   

The programme developed from an initiative on the entanglement issue begun by Norway, the USA and Australia.  The first two years were supported by the USA, but the programme is now also generously supported by a number of NGOs: World Animal Protection, Humane Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Welfare Institute.

To read more about the Global Entanglement Response Network click here.

To read more about Center for Coastal Studies click here.

To view a photo gallery of entanglement response training workshops click here.