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Building a Global Whale Entanglement Response Network

Salinas, Ecuador - June 2013

The full extent of the whale entanglement problem is not known, but both the animal welfare and the human safety issues are serious.  Entanglement can lead to drowning, laceration, infection and starvation.  A recent report estimated that 308,000 whales and dolphins die annually  due to entanglement in fishing gear, and untold more in marine debris. 

Disentangling wild and often injured animals at sea is difficult and dangerous.  The IWC is building a global network of professionally trained and equipped entanglement responders.  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.

A series of two day training workshops are underway.  Each one covers all the elements of entanglement at local, national and international levels, from sighting and reporting mechanisms and whale health assessment to safety equipment, national legislation and the authorisation process.   The training is led by David Mattila, who has over thirty years experience in this field and runs the IWC Entanglement Response Capacity Building Programme on secondment from the US Government. 

The latest workshop took place in Salinas with candidates from Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama.  The candidates included government officers in charge of marine biodiversity management, researchers and marine mammal stranding responders.  Their response was positive and post-course assessment awarded the training 4.9 out of 5.

The IWC is grateful to the Government of Ecuador for   offering to host the training and providing logistical support.  Additional funding and support was generously provided by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Conservacion International. 

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.  The Salinas workshop builds on earlier training in South America and will establish professional entanglement capacity across five countries. But elsewhere there is much still to do, and parts of the world with no entanglement response capability.

For more information on the Global Whale Entanglement Network click here.

Click here to view a short video from the Salinas Entanglement Workshop

Click here for an image gallery on whale entanglement.

Click here to enter the website of the Comision Permanente del Pacifico Sur (CPPS)