This common fishing practice endangers an entire whale species

So many North Atlantic right whales have collided with boats or become ensnared in vertical trap lines that only 400 of the animals remain.

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

When North Atlantic right whales migrate along North America’s eastern seaboard, they run a gantlet of fishing lines in their path. Today 83 percent of the population shows signs of entanglement, a leading cause of death for this endangered species. Fishing for crab and lobster involves placing traps (also called pots) on the ocean floor and marking the spot with a surface buoy that’s connected to the traps with a sturdy line. But the lines routinely harm whales; they cut into flesh and impede the whales’ diving, surfacing for air, and feeding. To CT Harry of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, a remedy seems clear: “Fishing without vertical lines is what’s going to save this species.”

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