I’ve been thinking a lot about whales and their plight lately. What could have induced this at a time when we’re beset with the realities of the COVID-19 virus, of the climate crisis, of the Black Lives Matter campaign and a half dozen other issues that demand attention and fixing? Heck, I haven’t spent a total of a week’s time on open water since my days in the U.S. Navy over a half-century ago. Yet here I am writing a letter to the editor regarding whale entanglement. Why get wrapped up in the fate of whales now?
Perhaps it’s because I recently read a New Yorker article that sensitized me (see “What Have We Done to the Whale,” Aug. 24, 2020) followed by reading Bill McWeeny’s commentary “Fishing the middle ground to save right whales” (July 23, 2020), and learning by virtue of documentation elsewhere in the EA that North Atlantic right whales are indeed in Maine waters, followed by a growing awareness of the issue as it relates to my neighbors on Deer Isle whose very livelihoods may be just as imperiled and related to the whale’s fate.
McWeeny offers a couple of measures (lower breaking strength ropes, reducing number of traps and installing 1,700-pound sleeves) that would be steps in the right direction, but whales would still suffer and die from entanglement. There are other strategies to include rope-less fishing that, if whales are to be saved, must be developed.
I believe it falls to the fishing community to affect relief. Who else can the whales and the rest of us look to for relief than the lobstermen themselves? Who knows the interrelatedness of all the sea’s creatures better? Who has greater reverence for the seas? Who would want more that their sons and daughters experience the rich rewards of a livelihood made on the water?
Perhaps suggesting that the whales are the canaries-in-the-mines counterpart in the sea isn’t an exact metaphor, but their welfare may well be as critical to man. The whales’ well-being is surely a telling indicator of the health of the ocean, indeed the planet.
I would hope for these reasons that all elements of the fishing industry would rally behind the whales, figure out what changes must be made to ensure their survival and implement them. From what I’ve read, it best be ASAP.