IFAW Cleans Up Abandoned Fishing Gear In Cape Cod Bay

A seasonal resident of Cape Cod waters, the North Atlantic right whale, one of the most endangered whales in the world, is precariously perched on the brink of extinction.  Its numbers prior to the 20th century were more than 10,000 strong and today only about 350 individuals remain.
The right whales extraordinary large amounts of blubber, as well as its use of near shore waters are why it was given the name ‘right’ by early whalers.  For hunters’ these features made it the right whale to hunt easily. Right whales still face the threat of extinction, not from hunter’s harpoons but from collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear, and this past week IFAW joined with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA DMF) and Environmental Police to work collaboratively with Cape Cod fishermen to recover illegal and abandoned fishing gear in critical right whale habitat.

So called "ghost gear" poses a significant entanglement threat to Right, Humpback and other whales that spend their summers feeding off Cape Cod.
With strong support from IFAW, Massachusetts was the first state to switch to sinking groundline for lobster gear. These and other gear modifications promise to reduce whale entanglements, but abandoned, illegally placed or damaged gear still threaten whales returning to Massachusetts waters each summer. Whales entangled in fishing gear can suffer slow deaths as line restricts their ability to feed, swim freely, or creates wounds and infections from rope abrasions.

By funding local lobstermen to use their own boats and equipment to recover the derelict gear, IFAW has enabled fishermen to utilize their unique expertise and equipment to protect the marine environment on which their livelihoods depend.

Learn what you can do to help right whales, click here today!

Below: Images from last weeks gear cleanup.

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