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NEFSA Statement on Right Whale #5120 Fatality

Statement of Dustin Delano, NEFSA COO and fourth-generation lobsterman:


New England fishermen have gone to great lengths to protect the Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. As true stewards of the ocean, we have empathy for this magnificent species. Importantly, this fatality is the first documented entanglement associated with our fishery since 2004. 


The New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds and share new information as it becomes available. This incident has caused great angst among commercial fishermen as to what retaliatory actions NOAA may take. 


Statement of facts

  • Right whale #5120 was ashore on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts on Jan. 28. 

  • Right whale #5120 was first observed with a tail wound and gear trailing behind it in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Aug. 20, 2022. This whale was spotted on four subsequent occasions. At all times, the whale was entangled and in declining health. 

  • Preliminary results from a necropsy completed on Feb. 1 confirm chronic entanglement with rope embedded in the tail. At this point, there is no evidence consistent with blunt force trauma from a ship strike. 

  • This particular fatality speaks to the need for better right whale monitoring and tracking. The 2022 federal omnibus bill includes programs for this purpose, which will be operational in 2024.

  • Right whale entanglements with lobster gear are rare. This is the first documented instance of Maine gear entangled with a right whale since 2004. 

  • Consistent with the ethic of conservation among fishermen, Congress has stated in law that our fishery is in compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act through Dec. 31, 2028. 


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