The Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network has received an uptick in reports of humpback whales hooked or entangled in monofilament and tuna fishing gear. This notice is to remind boaters and fishermen that fishing too closely to whales is dangerous for you, your passengers, and the whales. Getting too close can result in whales being struck, vessels damaged, and gear loss when whales get entangled or hooked in fishing gear. Additionally, injuring or potentially injuring a whale is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the federal law that protects all marine mammals from human activity that negatively impacts their ability to live and thrive naturally.
While many monofilament entanglements are shed over time, some of these entanglements can be detrimental to the animals. Any puncture of the skin in the marine environment leaves vulnerable animals open to infection— particularly stressed animals that have had previous entanglements or injuries, and calves.
Experienced fishermen don’t troll or cast near feeding whales, because they know tuna aren’t going to get caught up in the bubble clouds or aggregations of feeding whales. These fishermen know that approaching humpback whales* closer than 100-300 feet is not worth the risk. If you happen to hook a whale with your gear or hit one with your boat, report it right away to NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Marine Animal Reporting Hotline: 866-755-NOAA (6622) or to the US Coast Guard.
*North Atlantic right whales are protected by federal regulations that prohibit vessels from approaching within 500 yards (1500 feet) of right whales, with limited exceptions. If a right whale is sighted within the 500-yard buffer, then the vessel must depart the area immediately unless they are a commercial fishing vessel in the act of hauling back gear.