Watch this short video about Right Whale entanglement and UF research:
View objects in display cases:
Right Whales spend summer months in northern Atlantic waters off the coast of North America. They share these waters with many commercially fished species such as lobsters. As Right Whales swim through the water feeding, they can become entangled in ropes attached to lobster traps and then drag the ropes, buoys and traps for hundreds of miles. Ropes cut deep wounds and make it difficult or impossible for whales to feed when wrapped around their fins or mouth.
This Right Whale model shows how ropes can become wrapped around the whale’s mouth and fins.
Lobster fishermen attach a buoy and rope to their underwater traps so that they can locate them and remove lobsters. Right Whales may become entangled as they swim through the water feeding. Using break-away connectors and anchoring trap lines can reduce danger to whales and other large animals.
The narrow plastic loop attached to the rope is designed to break if a whale pulls on the line. This break-away feature allows the buoy and rope to float away without entangling the whale.
The thick end loop of this plastic connector will not break under drag and pressure from an entangled whale. Look closely and compare the two connectors where the rope is secured. Can you spot the subtle difference?
When a Right Whale is observed entangled in ropes and fishing gear, biologists from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) and from Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) respond.
Biologists work with helicopter crews who have a birds-eye view of the whale and can direct efforts to cut ropes and free the animal. UF veterinarians sometimes are needed to help with the rescue. Scientists use objects shown in the following photos to free Right Whales from entanglement.
This is similar to a tranquilizer gun but delivers a larger amount of drug to sedate a whale. The bolt action has been removed from this gun rendering it nonfunctional.
The large metal tube (dart) injects sedatives or antibiotics to treat injured whales while they are being freed from entanglement.
This high-pressure pump is used to create pressure inside the dart to deliver drugs. Once the dart is fired and strikes the animal, a needle in the tip of the dart injects the medicine.
This biopsy dart is used to obtain tissue samples. Pins in the tip hold a small tissue sample for scientists to learn about the whale’s health.
A satellite transmitter is attached to a buoy trailing the whale allowing rescue teams to locate the animal as it swims in the ocean. When an entangled animal is reported, it can take many hours for rescue teams to reach the whale. Tracking devices allow them to respond to the exact location in open waters.
VHF transmitters locate whales when they are within 5-10 miles so that rescue teams.
Tied to a long rope, this tool (grapple) is thrown into to water to grab lines trailing behind the whale. Rescue teams can then attach transmitters and work on lines entangling the whale.
This hook-shaped knife threads into a set of poles to extend its length up to 30 feet. This allows rescuers to cut lines from a safe distance.