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Whale-rescue workshop delivers life-saving training in Ecuador

Jul 22, 2013

Teams simulate a whale rescue off the Ecuadorian coast. Photo: © F. Felix

Whales entangled in fishing gear off the Ecuadorian coast have a brighter future thanks to a recent rescue-training workshop that we helped support. 

Ecuador is a ‘hotspot’ for whale entanglement, particularly for humpback whales that fall victim to the region’s extensive gill net fishery. Previous untrained attempts to release these whales has unfortunately made the problem worse, stressing the animals but failing to free them, as well as risking human lives. 

On 27-28 June, 2013, in Salinas, Ecuador, 37 participants from Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru were trained by two experts – David Mattila and Ed Lyman – from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Participants were taught to safely rescue entangled whales using both classroom and practical sessions, including whale rescue simulations out on the water. 

The workshop was a great success and very timely – it took place at the beginning of the humpback migration season. As a result, it is predicted that many tens of entangled whales will be safely cut free by the newly trained team.

This work is part of a new stream of whale protection work being led by the IWC, which we have promoted through lobbying campaigns. The problem of marine animal entanglements globally is huge, and something we will be tackling head on in our upcoming Untangled campaign to make the seas a safer home for animals. 

Did you know?

Humpback entangled in gillnet off Ecuador
Nets are a huge problem. Every year around the world, hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins become accidentally entangled in fishing gear. Some drown immediately, while others suffer painful wounds for months or even years before finally dying from infection, starvation or exhaustion. A whale rescued off California last year was dragging a heavy 50ft net which contained a dead sea lion, three dead sharks and numerous other dead fish and crabs.
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