Grays Spooked by Ghost Gear

Last weekend proved to be a busy weekend for the Rescue Department for island seal entanglements (Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard). We had several cases of gray seals entangled in ghost gear. Luckily all had a happy ending and the seals are spooked no more ...

Ghost gear is the lost or abandoned gear in the ocean. It mostly consists of passive gear such as gillnets and lobster traps. Netting, ropes, and monofilament prove to be hazardous to many marine animals, including whales and seals. The animals can get wrapped in gear, causing severe wounds and/or limiting their ability to move and forage for food.
A popular haul out beach for gray seals on Nantucket. Can you find the seal entangled in yellow rope?

Nantucket has a large population of gray seals, and on Friday afternoon three entangled seals were reported to the Nantucket Marine Mammal Stranding Team (NMMST) by a group of well trained and experienced New England Aquarium field volunteers. Since our response time is very slow to get to the islands, we rely heavily on our fantastic volunteers. Two of the seals had monofilament around their neck, and the other was wrapped in yellow rope and netting. NMMST successfully disentangled all three seals that afternoon and each went back in the water right away!

A gray seal on Martha's Vineyard was entangled in monofilament and nylon rope on 5/16/09

The next night we received a report of an entangled gray seal on Martha's Vineyard. This seal had several layers of line around its neck, as well as a thicker nylon rope with small buoys attached to it. We tracked the seal in and out of the water for several days and when it finally decided to haul out where we could get access to her we did. First thing the next morning (responding in the dark is too dangerous), three of our excellent field volunteers on Martha's Vineyard responded to the seal. They were able to cut off the gear and perform a health exam. With no severe injuries and no permanent disabilities from the gear, she was immediately released back to the water.

The gear collected from these seals will be sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service, where they will assess the type of gear the animals are being entangled in and learn more about the effects.

The gray seal on Martha's Vineyard was successfully disentangled and immediately returned to the water.

There are many ways you can help. When fishing, make sure all your gear is accounted for and it leaves the water with you! You can also participate in coastal beach cleanups in areas near you. If you see an entangled seal, please call our stranding hotline at 617-973-5247.


Facebook Comments


Post a Comment