Save the Whales: Encourage International Whale-Safe Fishing Practices

Target: Members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)

Goal: Research and support whale-safe fishing methods.

On the morning of October 7, a large 50-foot fin whale was spotted floating belly-up in the Boston Harbor. Biologists have still not uncovered the cause of death; but other scientists on the scene described the whale as being covered in bruises and pressure lines, indicating that the whale more than likely became tightly entangled in something. In the same month, a report published in Conservation Biology found that humans were largely to blame for the majority of large whale deaths in the northwest Atlantic Ocean over the past 40 years.

The paper focused on large whales (including the endangered humpback and right species) in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and examined all of the 1,762 documented deaths and major injuries between 1970 and 2009. According to the findings, 43 percent of these deaths were caused by entanglement in fishing gear—beating out death by natural causes and collisions with ships—and these deaths are never painless.

Michael Moore, a veterinarian and biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, believes it can take larger whales up to six months to die from entanglement injuries. In a graphic 2011 paper, Moore and his people described gruesome cases of entanglement deaths, including one in which a whale dragged a line for over four months and was left with a five-foot-wide gap in its blubber, exposing its shoulder blades.

Eliminating ropes from fishing is a tricky issue—fishermen should be able to retain their livelihoods and whales should be free to swim without the threat of being caught in ropes—but it is an important one, nonetheless. In order to move beyond ropes, risks must be taken and rewarded; without such, we may never progress to accommodate for the well-being of whales and other animals that die annually as bycatch. To encourage the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to research whale-safe fishing methods, please add your name to the petition below.


Dear Members of the IWC,

In the past 40 years the majority of whale deaths have been caused by humans and, specifically, our fishing practices and methods. Many of these deaths are considered excruciatingly painful, inhumane, and incredibly prolonged. Fishing lines and ropes have been known to cut deep into the bodies of whales—slicing through blubber and exposing (and even imbedding into) the bone within. For the largest of species, dying can stretch for as long as six months. When harpooning an animal is the most humane way of killing it, we know we have a problem.

With whales numbers continually decreasing all around the world, something must be done to protect these animals before it is too late. New fishing methods must be researched that will not only benefit the livelihoods of fishermen, but will secure the safety of the oceans’ animals, as well. Compromise is crucial, and I urge you to save the whales before they all become victims of human encroachment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries Service

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