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      Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    PCCS Contact:
    Cathrine Macort
    +1-508-487-3622 x103

    Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies hosts international workshop on whale disentanglement tools and techniques.

    PCCS Marine Animal Entanglement Response
    team. PCCS image taken under NOAA
    Fisheries Permit 932-1489
    Scientists and whale entanglement experts from many countries gathered this week in Provincetown, Massachusetts for a three-day workshop on welfare issues associated with the entanglement of large whales. Organized by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and hosted by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, the workshop met to advance recommendations about large whale entanglements that had initially been put forth at an earlier workshop that was held in Maui, Hawaii in 2010.

    Although many hundreds of incidents of whales being entangled in fishing gear are reported each year, researchers estimate that many thousands more are unreported throughout the world's oceans; workshop participants recommended enhancing efforts by all countries to improve monitoring entanglements which, together with ship strikes, are the two majors threats to the healthy recovery of many species of endangered marine mammals.

    The ten nations attending, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States, working with the endorsement of the International Whaling Commission, are hoping to develop new tools, techniques and protocols for responding to entanglements. In addition, the workshop made recommendations to develop capacity building curricula and strategies to increase the effectiveness and safety of whale rescue programs.

    The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies was an appropriate location for such a workshop having been the first organization in the world to develop techniques to disentangle free swimming whales, beginning with a dramatic rescue in Provincetown Harbor on Thanksgiving Day 1984 of a female humpback named Ibis. The Center has gone on to rescue more than150 whales and turtles; and working with support from its partner, the National Marine Fisheries Service in NOAA, has helped establish a network of entanglement response teams along the Atlantic coast.

    A participant in the first rescue and many more since then, NOAA's David Mattila, who is working directly with IWC and stationed in Provincetown, said that "with an increasing number of rescue programs in many countries, there is great value in sharing lessons learned, new techniques and other information about best practices, thereby advancing all efforts". He was especially pleased by the very positive response from all participants who were invited to participate in the workshop. Final recommendations and reports will be submitted to the IWC and distributed upon its review and approval.

    The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1976, dedicated to preserving coastal and marine ecosystems and providing educational activities which promote stewardship of our oceans. The Center is federally-authorized to perform large whale disentanglement under the authority of Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit Number 932-1489, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service and United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Disentanglement work is supported by a grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF). Support for the Marine Animal Response Team also comes from a grant issued by Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from private foundations and citizens.

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