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Apr 26, 2016

A Humpback Whale Dies After Being Trapped in Gill Net

Our cameras captured images of a humpback whale last week as our news team traveled to the Sarstoon. The whale was in Belizean waters for the past eight weeks, but was trapped in a gillnet off the coast of Barranco. On Monday, the whale died after being in distress for days in the shallow murky waters.  A necropsy will be done later this week to determine the exact cause of death. OCEANA’s VP Janelle Chanona says that the plight of the whale highlights the need to ban gillnet fishing. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Globally, it is estimated that there are only eighty thousand humpback whales left in the wild. And tonight, there is one less of these magnificent creatures swimming in the sea. A thirty-foot whale was found just off the shores of Barranco in extremely shallow and murky waters.


Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“My cameraman, Alex Ellis and our project assistants went out there with the assistance of the Barranco Community and we found a whale that was more or less appeared to be stationery. It was moving, it was breathing, but it was in obvious distress. The waters, at that time, was extremely…visibility was very low in the water. So they were able to document what they saw at the scene and it was actually as they were leaving, the anchor of the boat got caught in something and when they brought it up, they realized it was a gillnet and then they were able to deduce that that same gillnet was caught up around the tail of it. I’ve since seen reports that other fishermen were able, and just people that use the area, were able to share that they had seen gillnets around other portions of the body.”


A humpback whale in the Caribbean Sea is not a common sighting for many Belizeans. But on February twenty-fourth, the large mammal was initially spotted in Belize. It was seen in the deep water channel near the Big Creek Port, Scipio Caye, fifteen miles away from Placencia, in Riversdale and in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.


Janelle Chanona

“Certainly, a humpback whale in Belizean waters is an extremely rare occurrence. There was an incident in 2011 where a humpback whale was also spotted in the region of Turneffe. But in this year, in February, it was extremely rare for a humpback to be seen in tropical waters. According to the experts, they come to this part of the world to breed, to give birth and while they’re here, they are eating krill and small fish. So it is indeed extremely tragic that something so magnificent and something so extremely rare met its demise here in Belize. Usually these of course very deep water traveling; humpback whales have the record for furthest migration…thousands of miles. They are very popular with whale-watchers because as big as they are—they can grow more than fifty feet—they can propel their entire bodies out of the water. They are used for commercials and that sort of thing. But it is very disheartening to see that such a rare sighting and had to…definitely part of the factor of its demise was a gillnet.”


On Monday morning, the whale was dead. Now, gillnet is a wall of nylon netting used by some fisher folks and environmentalists say it is indiscriminate. But gillnet fishing is legal in Belize. As it currently stands, two hundred permits have been issued by the Fisheries Department and efforts by OCEANA Belize is for this type of fishing to be banned in the country. VP Chanona says that while it is not believed that the gillnet was the cause for the death of the mammal, it compounded the situation.


Janelle Chanona

“We don’t know exactly what caused this animal to die; some of the scientists say it was either lost or sick. But without a doubt, the issue of gillnets compound the situation and limited the range of moment for this mammal and that’s very disappointing. This type of incident, Duane, helps to highlight that even though gillnets may look innocuous and we might be telling ourselves it is only a small number of people using it. IT highlights the fact that even something as big and certainly as strong as a thirty or forty foot whale can be affected by and hurt by a gillnet. Our consultations with fishermen across coastal communities continue and it continues to reveal that many fishermen agree that gillnets are indiscriminate; there needs to be a transition to cleaner gear. And what we have formally proposed to the Fisheries Department is we look at a situation where a ban is announced as early as June and then we have a two years period where the fishermen will be supported in transitioning to cleaner gear and then the effect of the ban would take place in June 2018.”


Persons from the Oceanic Society and local experts will conduct a necropsy and other identification process on the corpse of the mammal in the days to come to determine the cause of death and the age of the humpback whale. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “A Humpback Whale Dies After Being Trapped in Gill Net”

  1. Riqo says:

    OCEANA and the media should be ashamed of themselves. 8 weeks we had a whale, and you guys, traversing to Sarstoon and back, managed to miss every opportunity to publicize this magnificent event. too busy spreading lies, and the agendas of your superiors. the media is filled with dirty tricks! Maybe if y’all had shed light on the situation, the whale could’ve survived, tourists would come check it out, and scientist would’ve had a remarkable research to do in Belize! But once more, yall slipped up! KUDOS to you!

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