The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says although the number of whale entanglements in U.S. waters is higher than the 10-year average, the total exhibits are decreasing in some regions, including the West Coast.
Off the West Coast, crab pots are the most common form of fishing gear that causes whale entanglements. NOAA is currently working with the Dungeness crab industry in California to determine ways to reduce the entanglements.
NOAA presented a 2017 report about large whale entanglements on Thursday. The data is used to see if trends are changing and whether action is needed. Collecting the data, NOAA says, is important to recovery of species and work focused on reducing entanglements.
In 2017, 76 large whales were confirmed entangled, 70 of which were live entanglements. On water crews responded to 50 cases and successfully disentangled 20 of the whales. Of the total, 21 were partially or fully disentangled, four whales self-released, 45 were alive but last seen still entangled and presumed still entangled, and six died after being entangled.
"The number of confirmed entanglement cases nationwide in 2017 is similar to the 10-year (2007-2016) average annual number of confirmed entanglements. Although the number of overall entanglements in 2017 is within the 10-year average, the number of entanglements exhibits a decrease from the higher numbers seen in recent years in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and West Coast regions," the report reads.
The majority of entanglements were in fishing gear. Humpback whales were the most common entanglements. Gray whales were the second most common.
"The five most frequently entangled large whale species in 2017 included humpback whale, gray whale, minke whale, blue whale, and North Atlantic right whale. Large whale entanglements were reported and confirmed in the waters of 13 states, along all U.S. coasts except within the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 70 percent of confirmed cases in 2017 were entangled in fishing gear (line and buoys, traps, monofilament line, and nets)," the report reads.
NOAA says the public should not attempt to disentangle marine mammals but should call their hotline.
Click here to read the report.