Simulation of the entanglement of a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) with fixed fishing gear
Population estimates of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) put the number of individuals at 458 with the actual number likely being lower due to a recent unusual mortality event. Entanglement with fixed fishing gear is the most significant cause of mortality of North Atlantic right whales. There remains little documentation of how North Atlantic right whales become enwrapped during an encounter with fixed fishing gear. In order to gain a better understanding of how entanglements might occur, an interactive simulator was developed that allows the user to swim a virtual whale model using a standard game controller through a gear field in an attempt to re-create an entanglement. The morphologically accurate right whale model produces realistic swimming motions and is capable of pectoral fin motions in response to user input. Using the simulator, gear entanglements involving the pectoral flippers including ropes wrapping around the body and entanglements involving the tailstock were re-created. Entanglements involving the pectoral flippers with body wraps were more easily generated than entanglements involving the tailstock only. The simulator should aid scientists, fisheries experts, fishing gear designers, and bycatch reduction scientists in understanding entanglement dynamics and testing potential new gear configurations.
Howle, LE; Kraus, SD; Werner, TB; Nowacek, DP
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