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Tangled trouble offshore


FEB. 7 — On Sunday at about 2:45 p.m. an endangered North Atlantic right whale was spotted 15 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., with large fishing lines looped around its head and mouth, according to a report in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. But the whale disappeared into the watery blue as biologists from the University of North Carolina Wilmington combed the waters over the next few days.

The whale was last seen moving northeast at about five knots. By Tuesday, biologists had given up on tracking down the elusive mammal but stated that if it is relocated, an assessment will be made on how to best untangle and remove the fishing lines, according to the report.

North Atlantic right whales are highly endangered, with only 395 listed in the NOAA catalog. They calve off the southeast coast and spend their summers off Labrador in Canada. Scientists are discovering these creatures are natural-born travelers, and can live as long as 100 years, according to the report.

“Three out of four right whales in the North Atlantic population bear scars of entanglement from fishing gear,” stated Greg Krutzikowsky, director of the whale disentanglement program at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts.

— Elizabeth Ellis