Pregnant whale found dead in Scotland after “ghost net” got stuck in its mouth

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A pregnant whale was found dead in the Scottish islands of Orkney with the remains of abandoned fishing net in its mouth.

According to the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme on their official Facebook account, the pregnant mink whale was found to be in good health before it encountered the “ghost gear”

Reminder of the hazards of ghost gear- an adult female minke whale in otherwise good health, likely live stranded after becoming entangled in section of net.

Posted by Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme on Tuesday, October 8, 2019

“The animal was in excellent body condition and pregnant with a mid-term foetus. It looked like it had become recently entangled in a section of discarded or lost fishing net- this had become jammed in the baleen and then dragged behind the animal,” SMASS wrote.

Based on the injuries on its flank, they believe that the pregnant mink whale was struggling in the last few hours of its life as it got stranded in the surfline.

In their post, SMASS warned that the remains of fishing gear could pose a deadly threat to marine mammals like dolphins, whales or porpoises.

“Entanglement in nets and fishing lines is a growing global concern and this case highlights that entanglement risk in these species is not just from rope – lost, abandoned or discarded nets also represent a significant hazard to marine life,” SMASS wrote in their post.

“In this case, entanglement cost the lives of two animals – the mother and her unborn, female calf.”

“This further demonstrates why such interactions can be both tragic at an individual level and potentially a risk to the population.”

“Of course there are situations where gear is lost by accident of misfortune, but, where it isn’t, there is just no excuse for wilfully throwing this stuff overboard. Surely it’s not too much to ask for it to be brought back ashore and disposed of in a responsible way?”

The death of the pregnant mink whale was the second case of a whale caught in a fishing net on Sanday, Orkney in the same week

Fortunately, the humpback whale which was accidentally caught in fishing nets off the coast of Orkney was quickly rescued by the rescue team.

According to a survey, ghost nets account for at least 46% of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of marine debris the size of France floating in the North Pacific Ocean.

It is one of the five largest offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans.

Just like microplastics, megaplastics like fishing nets also pose a dangerous threat to marine life as it becomes part of non-biodegradable plastic waste in the ocean.

Fish and other marine life get easily entangled in these abandoned fishing nets and more often than not, they are stuck in the net and encounter a slow and painful death, just like the dead pregnant whale mink.

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