BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Inclement weather has grounded a team that will try to free an endangered right whale from a nylon line.
After it was spotted Monday about 13 miles offshore, a team failed to disentangle the whale, said Clay George, a wildlife biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. A satellite tracking buoy was attached to the nylon line trailing from the 45-foot adult whale that will help biologists find the whale again for another attempt, Mr. George said.
Because of the weather, it will likely be several days before a team from the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network can make another try at cutting the line off the whale, Mr. George said.
"You can probably count us out through the end of the week. In that time, the whale can go basically anywhere," he said.
The whale appears to be in good health and swimming freely, Mr. George said.
The three-eighths to half-inch nylon line is looped through the whale's mouth and tangled together over its back with a long section trailing in the water behind it, he said.
Although it is too early to tell the origination of the line, it has smaller lines extending from it, which is the type of gear used in long-line fishing, Mr. George said.
A cutting from the line will be given to experts in hopes of determining its origin, he said.
Entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships are the two main causes of mortality among right whales, Mr. George said.
In 2006, four right whales died from ship strikes, one in Florida, one in Georgia and the two in the Bay of Fundy in Canada, where the whales spend summers after calving off Georgia and North Florida. One whale died from an entanglement.
Entanglements are more common in the Northeast because of the widespread use of lobster pots, Mr. George said.
Some whales entangled in Northeast waters sometimes make it all the way to Florida and Georgia before they are spotted, he said.
There are thought to be only 300 right whales remaining.
Reach Terry Dickson at (912) 264-0405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.