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Recovered Gear Analysis of North Atlantic Right Whale Argo Eg #1218

©  His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 2023

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Executive summary

Two lobster traps and 44 m of rope (Fig. 1) were removed from Argo (Eg #1218), a 42-year-old male, by a multi-group United States (U.S.) response team off Surf City, North Carolina during the period of January 28 and 29, 2023. Analysis of recovered gear was jointly undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on April 18, 2023. Purple tags for Canadian Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 33 were present on the gear. The harvester reported the gear lost on December 7, 2022, and follow-up confirmed that the traps were part of an initial 15-pot trawl that was actively being fished.

Conclusion of gear origin: LFA 33 (southwest Nova Scotia).

Event details

Recovered gear

Contact with harvester

Harvester set a 15-pot lobster trawl on December 5, 2022 and reported a portion of it lost to DFO on December 7, 2022: 220 m of rope, one yellow buoy, and 11 traps. The harvester hauled 4 of their initial 15 traps, and 2 of their lost 11 traps were recovered off Argo 53 days later. The harvester noted they had never seen their hauled rope frayed and torn like that before. In addition, the trawl's direction had shifted from southwest to west.

Method of initial entanglement

The method of initial entanglement is inconclusive based on the recovered gear and conversation with harvester. Positively buoyant ground line was recovered off the whale, though this is not conclusive evidence that the whale first came in contact with the ground line. The harvester reported a missing buoy line; it is possible the whale first came in contact with the buoy line in the water column rather than the ground line.

Photos of inspected gear

Fig. 1. Gear removed from Argo laid out in the NOAA Gear Warehouse in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Fig. 2. LFA 33 purple coloured tags that were attached to the lobster traps recovered from Argo. The 32 is used to identify tag manufacturer and does not represent LFA 32. Photo Credit: NOAA

Fig. 3. Half-inch rope with yellow and black tracer on the same strand.

Fig. 4. A gangion attachment site to ground line on gear removed from Argo. The lower rope (ground line) has orange tracers and the upper rope (gangion) has yellow and black tracers.

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