Learn How NOAA Can Assess Risk

Large whale entanglement in commercial fishing gear off the U.S. West coast has been identified as an issue of concern by NOAA Fisheries because of the potential impacts to both large whales (individually and at a stock/population level) and the commercial fishing industry. Large whales entangled in gear may be injured and/or impaired which could affect the ability of individuals to survive and a population's ability to recover.

Along the U.S. West coast, an average of 10 large whales have been reported entangled per year between 2000-2012. Little information has been confirmed from entanglement reports about the origin of the entangling gear; therefor NOAA has developed analytical tools to assess the potential entanglement risk associated with various fixed gear fisheries relative to their occurrence with large whale species.

A primary tool includes the development of a model to represent the spatial and temporal distributions of commercial fishing effort, focusing on fixed gear fisheries with gear that has been confirmed as entangling whales through sightings and strandings of entangled animals and/or has the potential for causing entanglement based on similarities in the general configuration of gear across the fisheries. The other tool developed, a co-occurrence model, identified potential species-specific elevated risk areas where and when large whales are more likely to encounter fishing gear, which is the first step in assessment of whale entanglement risk associated with fixed gear fisheries. 

Confirmed entanglement reports were compared with model results.  Alignment of known entanglement locations with areas of higher co-occurrence scores supported the use of the co-occurrence model for assessment of whale entanglement risk off the U.S. West coast.  Research on the identified elevated risk areas, combined with the ability to trace gear, continued gear research, and strengthened outreach to improve reporting, should improve the ability to minimize or mitigate the risk of large whale entanglements.

To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-866-767-6114 
For law enforcement, harassments,  and other violations, please call:  1-800-853-1964

For entangled marine mammals, please call: 1-877-SOS-WHALe or 1-877-767-9425
or hail the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16
To report derelict gear, please call:  1-855-542-3935