Essay Sample: Whale Response to Chronic Entanglement in Fishing Nets

Published: 2022-05-05
Essay Sample: Whale Response to Chronic Entanglement in Fishing Nets
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Animals
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1229 words
11 min read

Entanglement in fishing nets and gear or the commonly known, "bycatch" is one of the significant dangers affecting whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Thousands of these water animals die a slow and painful death annually. As a consequence, the entanglement in fishing nets has pushed various species to the extent of extinction. This calls for the urgent need of working together to protect whales hence making fishing better. In that, getting shut in the fishing nets is a dreadful way of dying since whales and dolphins are not able to breathe underwater. This is primarily attributed by the perspective that, once they are trapped, they tend to panic and as a result, they suffer from terrible wounds and broken bones as they find ways of escaping from the fishing nets. Therefore, to eradicate this problem and save thousands of lives, it is vital to extend our knowledge on the Whale response to chronic entanglement in fishing nets so that we can propose better solutions and technologies that will help whales to detect and avoid fishing gears.

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Notably, it essential to note that, animal movement is characterized by the vigorous constraints, whereby aptness is enhanced by reducing the amount of energy consumed. In that, the energetic requirement of action is determined by the resistive elements that trap an animal. Thus alterations in this force steadiness can take place either unnaturally or naturally. As a consequence, these entanglements can change the whale's diving and swimming ability since it is known to wipe out or deplete their energy (Hoop, 2017). This is because fishing nets that entangle huge whale increases drag and in most instances, it changes the energy balance to a level of fatal emaciation. An ideal example of this drag is evident from the tags connected to cetaceans for study and monitoring. Some whale species portray specific behaviors that without their knowledge put them to risk hence enhancing their chances of being entangled in the fishing gear.

Therefore, whale entanglement is a developing predicament that is difficult to determine the extent of the number of whales that die as a result of being trapped in the fishing nets. The recent reports by the International Whaling Commission guesstimate that 308,000 dolphins and whales die annually as a result of being trapped or injured by fishing nets (Hoop, 2017). The effects of entanglement may be non-lethal and short-term and in other instances persistent and end up losing their lives out of infection, damage of appendages or even sinking due to the restrained body parts. Nonetheless, the other likely consequences are starvation which is primarily caused by the impaired scavenging power and exhaustion because of the hydrodynamic strain or hindrance. Thus entanglement is believed to be the primary cause of human-caused mortality in several whale species particularly the right whales, gray whales and humpback whales.

A research was conducted by NOAA (1998) whereby the drag forces were identified on the fishing nets that trapped and endangered North Atlantic right whales and integrated these dimensions with hypothetical approximations of drag on the bodies of whales. Primarily, it was ascertained that the entanglement in fishing net maximized the drag forces to a level of 3 fold. Consequently, this suggests that there were significant changes in swimming as well as the fine-scale drive patterns of these whales which are caused by the relative alterations in buoyancy and drag attained from the fishing gear as well as through the disentanglement. Nevertheless, there were significant changes in the swimming patterns which have severe implications for the survival of persistently entangled whales (Miketa et al., 2017). When whales are entangled, in some instances, they tend to slow down so that they can evade further energy costs related to drag from the small bio-logging tags. As a consequence, this aspect incrementally reduces the speed of diving due to the increase in drag. Therefore, this concept has successfully illustrated the response of whales on the element of added drag which is caused by the entanglement of fishing net. In that, animals tend to change their movement so that they can steer fluctuations in their energy setting linked with the amplified drag.

Subsequently, the response of whales when entangled in fishing gears calls for the responders to establish specific designed tools and techniques that will help to disentangle whales as well as other marine animals. Nonetheless, there is the suggestion of applying satellite's transmitters and receivers that will help to track an entangled whale over a specified duration. This satellite initiative has proven to be helpful in un-entangling whales that are seen to be hand to disentangle during the initial trial or response (NOAA Fisheries, 1998). However, it is known that freeing a marine animal that is in distress can be fatal for the animal as well as the rescuers alike. Thus, there is need to observe the whale disentanglement procedures and apply a boat-based technique that depends on the historic whaling skills commonly known as "Kegging."

Even so, it is evident that entanglement in marine animals has become a serious issue that has severe effects on animals living in water such as whales. When whales are trapped in the fishing gears, their behaviors tend to change rapidly. In that less time is spent foraging while a lot of time is spent trying to move from one place to another. Subsequently, after being entangled, whales respond by isolating themselves from others; thus they are in most instances alone after being trapped (Miketa et al., 2017). This depicts the negative impacts on the social aspects of these animals. Other responses from the entangled whales entail leaps and fast swims. Nevertheless, irrespective of the notion that the process of capture differs among various fishing nets, the most prevalent assumption is that the moment air-breathing mammals are trapped, they endure a desperate struggle with the hopes of escaping. In that process, they end up suffering severe injuries that make it hard for them to survive and as a consequence, they will die through asphyxiation.

To sum up, a majority of marine animals such as whales are captured in fishing nets and other marine debris as they go through their diving activities or while on the beach. Multiple objects can trap whales and other marine animals; they include fishing nets, abandoned gears and other forms of rope/line as well as trash such as plastic materials that are thrown into the marine environment. However, full-grown whales are mostly strong enough to break free from the captured fishing nets and swim off with the remaining gear around their appendages. Subsequently, this gear increases substantial drag, and if the animals cannot get off the net or be disentangled by a specialist, the impediment continues to consume the energy reserved by the whale, and at the end, it will end up dying. Therefore, it essential for the nations carrying out fishing activities on marine mammals to consider their habit so that they can ensure there are sustainability and protection of whales through the aspect of modifying the finishing nets that are less harmful to them.


Hoop, J. V. (2017). Effects of added drag on cetaceans: Fishing gear entanglement and external tag attachment. doi:10.1575/1912/8468.

Miketa, M. L., Krzyszczyk, E., & Mann, J. (2017). Behavioral responses to fishing line entanglement of a juvenile bottlenose dolphin in Shark Bay, Australia. Retrieved April 09, 2018, from

NOAA fisheries: Sustaining, protecting & rebuilding our Nations living ocean. (1998). doi:10.5962/bhl.title.62161.

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