January 6th, 2017 (Dinah Voyles Pulver). Biologists with Florida and Georgia wildlife agencies completed a daring at-sea rescue Friday afternoon on an endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Biologists with Florida and Georgia wildlife agencies completed a daring at-sea rescue Friday afternoon on an endangered North Atlantic right whale.
The whale, known as “Ruffian,” was spotted Thursday during an aerial survey by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Realizing the whale was wrapped in potentially deadly fishing gear, a network of officials who work on right whales was notified. The whale had two lines of rope coming out of both sides of its mouth, with fishing gear trailing behind.
On Friday, the FWC, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and NOAA Fisheries collaborated to perform the at-sea rescue. Using a special knife, the biologists cut the rope, retrieving the rope and to their surprise, a large round net/trap the whale was dragging, officials with NOAA and Georgia DNR said Friday. It is not clear if the whale is completely free from the gear; however, the rescue team did not see anything else on the whale, NOAA stated in a news release.
The right whales, considered critically endangered because there are only about 500 of them, migrate to the waters off the Florida and Georgia coasts each winter. Pregnant right whales travel down the Atlantic Coast to give birth in the region’s warmer waters. Other whales, including juveniles and males, sometimes accompany the pregnant whales.
Hundreds of volunteers with the Marineland Right Whale Project and the Marine Resources Council monitor the coastal waters to watch for whales. When a whale is sighted, the volunteer calls and makes a report so that warnings can be provided to ships traveling in the vicinity of the whale.
To report a whale sighting or an injured whale, call 1-888-979-4253 (97-WHALE).