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Possible Fishing Gear Entanglement Amputates Gray Whale

Whale watchers aboard a late afternoon trip yesterday with Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari out of Dana Point, California, were shocked and saddened when they encountered a migrating gray whale with no flukes.

The gray whale uses the side of the peduncle (tail) to generate thrust, in order to do this it must dive sharply and corkscrew its body so that it can use the surface area of the side of the tail. This whale may have back problems but it is able to keep up enough in order to make the migration.

The injury appears to be amputation caused by fishing gear entanglement. The blood supply to the affected area may have been cut off causing the end of the tail and flukes to die and fall off without impacting the rest of the whale.  According to scientific estimates entanglement kills nearly 1,000 dolphins and whales ever day around the world. Gray whales face several challenges during their migration including killer whales and entanglement in gill nets.

Captain Dave formed Orange County’s first whale disentanglement group in 2008 and has been involved with the disentanglement of several whales, including a gray whale named Lily, whose disentanglement in Dana Point Harbor made national headlines. He also authored the award-winning book, “Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey” to promote awareness of the issue of entanglement.

Gray whales average 40 to 50 feet in length and have one of the longest migrations of any mammal. Each year the whales migrate 10,000 to 12,000 miles round trip from their feeding grounds in the cold waters of the Chukchi and Bering Seas to the warm lagoons of Baja, California, to mate and have their calves. Learn more about gray whales.

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