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Disentangling whales trapped in fishing nets

Langara Fishing AdventuresIt’s more complicated and more difficult than it sounds.  There’s a great BBC story about the Campobello Island Whale Rescue team that frees trapped whales caught up in or near Canada’s Bay of Fundy.  The animals struggle and make the work hard, so they tie polyurethane balloons around their fins to tire them out before they can successfully cut them loose.  It sounds pretty dangerous, too, but they do it because they like whales and want to help ones in trouble.  Volunteer Mackie Greene reports that humpbacks are easiest to work with.  They are used to people and often seem to understand what is going on.  He gets a real high after a successful release.

I share the fascination, as many people do.  I’ve followed grey whales off Santa Barbara, humpbacks off Provincetown, orcas off Vancouver and minke whales off Iceland.  There’s something about the creatures that fascinates.  Partly it is because we usually see only a fraction of their lives as they surface to breathe, and partly it is the sheer size of them.  And of course there is also their comparative intelligence.  They are by no means herbivores, given the plankton that many of them feed upon contains both animal and vegetable organisms.  And while many of them are gentle creatures, there is a real thrill when one surfaces alongside the boat and disappears with the huge fluke of its tail last to vanish under the waves.

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