National marine sanctuaries across the United States are the home of ocean giants. Blue, humpback, gray, sperm, north Atlantic right, and orca whales, plus many more species find refuge in these special places.
Entanglement from fishing gear and marine debris, ship strikes, noise pollution, and climate change threaten whale species across the globe. National marine sanctuaries and monuments are important areas for finding solutions to help prevent entanglements, rescue whales, and reduce mortality from ship strikes.
A multi-pronged, comprehensive conservation approach must be undertaken if we want to sustain these iconic species. The Foundation works with its partners to 1) host disentanglement workshops to improve response and preparedness to rescue entangled whales, 2) supports research to identify whale use areas to reduce co-occurrence with fishing activity, vessel traffic and other threats and 3) actively tests and supports new gear innovations that reduce the risk of entanglements.
Modifying fishing gear, identifying areas of high risk of entanglement, and removing derelict gear from the water can decrease the likelihood of large whale entanglement. One such innovation, pop-up or ropeless gear, would reduce or eliminate vertical fishing lines in the water column. In-water testing of these innovations can provide valuable information, data, and design feedback needed to gauge the technology’s efficacy and ease of use by fishermen. The Foundation is committed to working collaboratively with fishermen to test different gear innovations in sanctuary areas and areas of concern. The goal is to foster cooperative and scientifically sound research to simulate real world scenarios that advance innovative solutions.
Whale Disentanglement Training
Disentangling a whale is a rescue effort like other emergency response operations. It requires highly trained teams, specialized equipment and supplies, and strong coordination. Responders need to be prepared and ready to respond while also ensuring safety and efficiency for both the whale and the rescue team.
The Foundation works in partnership with the National Large Whale Entanglement Response Network and our national marine sanctuaries to support whale disentanglement trainings to coordinate the response community, facilitate access to vessels, provide specialized equipment and supplies, and test new approaches and technologies to improve future response missions.
The Foundation is dedicated to expanding marine research to understand co-occurrence and identify high risk areas to aid in conservation efforts. The Foundation supports the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) cruise into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to research ocean conditions that help guide human uses of the ocean and increase ocean outreach. Using data collected by ACCESS, including observations of animals and ocean conditions, Point Blue created species distribution models to predict seasonal and annual high-use areas for whales as well as birds. Vessel speed reduction requests, reducing whale entanglements, and monitoring ocean acidification are just a few of the management efforts ACCESS data have informed.