Marine Debris

Sea Life Surveys' research have revealed the problem of marine debris for the minke whales in the area. Nine of the catalogued whales show evidence of accumulating marine debris. Two whales, photographed in May 1997 and May 1999, have plastic packing strips wrapped around their rostrums. These plastic strips have become trapped in the baleen in the upper jaws and appear to be cutting into the whale’s skin. 

Another whale, photographed in September 1999, has a white scar thought to be caused by a packing strip or twine. Three minke whales appear to have evidence of creel ropes wrapped around their heads. Two of the whales, photographed in August 1994 and September 1998, have large circular notches in their rostrums along the ridge. These notches look to be caused by ropes wrapped around their rostrums and the size of the notch would suggest that it is a thick rope such as those used for creels. 

One whale, photographed in September 1998, has obviously had a thick rope wrapped around its head and the twist of the twine can be seen in the scar. 

Two other whales in the catalogue have marks on the tips of their mouths which look to be caused by a physical abrasion of some sort and one whale has scars around its flank. Again these are probably caused by marine debris.

The evidence of marine debris on the whales is cause for concern. It is believed that most of this debris comes from shipping or from fishing activities. The evidence suggests that some whales are able to free themselves eventually of this debris but the extent of the scars suggests that they have carried this debris for quite some time. Strandings information has shown that marine debris and entanglement causes the death of many of the minke whales in our area. 

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