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Estimating Entanglement Risk for Right Whales

Abstract

Much effort is being directed at developing management measures to reduce the risk to North Atlantic Right Whales of becoming entangled in fishing gear.  An existing model developed by the PI estimates the risk of encounters between these whales and lobster fishing gear along the coast of Maine.  I propose here to extend this model to estimate entanglement rates.  The existing model suggests that there are approximately 2,500 encounters between Right Whales and lobster gear lines in the waters off Maine each year.  But not all of these encounters lead to entanglements: overall, 15]35% of the Right Whale population (about 100 animals) are thought to become entangled along all of the US Atlantic coast in a given year.  I propose to (a) estimate the overall fishing gear encounter rate by extending the Maine model to the remainder of the North Atlantic Right Whale range, and (b) use the resulting global encounter rate estimate and data on entanglements to develop a procedure for estimating entanglement risk.  This will provide an important building block for the development of targeted and effective entanglement risk reduction measures for Right Whales and other large marine mammals.

Last updated: August 12, 2013