Gray Whale Calf Rescued in Laguna San Ignacio

RABEN Team Disentangles Gray Whale Calf and Saves It’s Life

On February 7th, the LSIESP/PRIMMA-UABCS gray whale research team was conducting a routine whale abundance survey in Laguna San Ignacio when they observed a female whale and her calf swimming slowly at the surface and trailing several fishing lines with buoys attached. As the team approached the pair, it became obvious that the calf had several fishing lines and buoys wrapped around its body, and the weight of this fishing gear was making it very difficult for the calf to swim and surface to breathe.

Our field Chief, Dr. Sergio Martínez A, decided to attempt to dis-entangle this calf from the fishing gear, but to do so the team had to return to the field laboratory to obtain the special equipment needed to free the whale of the gear. Upon returning to the mother whale and her entangled calf, under the direction of Dr. Martínez the team implemented the “RABEN” (Red de Asistencia a Ballenas Enmalladas) protocol, or procedure, to begin the rescue process. In 2014 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) funded a series of whale disentanglement workshops led by Ed Lyman and David Matilla (then working for the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission) to train LSIESP researchers and other boat operators in specific methods to safely disentangle large whales from fishing gear. NRDC also funded the purchase of especially designed equipment for large whale disentanglements, and ensured that cashes of this equipment were maintained at the gray whale breeding lagoons, and at other key locations in Baja California. To date 8 gray whales have been disentangled and rescued in Laguna San Ignacio.

This winter’s gray whale calf rescue brings the total number of gray whales successfully disentangled in Laguna San Ignacio to 8 whales saved since this effort began.  Many of these individual whales have been repeatedly sighted and photographed in years following their rescues.

Read the details of this rescue at the link on the bottom of this page

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