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Technology breakthrough for whale disentanglements

Western Australian government scientists have partnered with marine wildlife experts to develop a new whale rescue tool that tracks the real-time location of whales entangled in fishing gear.

The technology allows responders from the Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to remotely monitor the whale before safely attempting a disentanglement.

A total of 10 trackable buoys have been provided to specialist whale disentanglement teams at strategic locations between Esperance and Broome, including three in Perth.

The technology was developed by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development scientists, with $73,000 in funding from the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy. The Western Rock Lobster Council has provided $20,000 for the purchase of the 10 buoys.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"About 35,000 whales are currently migrating from Antarctic waters to calving areas in the Kimberley.

"Previously, it was extremely difficult to find an entangled whale off the WA coast once it was lost from sight, and some opportunities to rescue distressed animals were missed as it was unsafe to attempt disentanglement due to poor weather and light.

"This new technology allows time for disentanglements to be carried out in safe weather conditions and with sufficient daylight, while being aware of the whale's location at all times."

Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly:

"During their migration, whales travel through a number of commercial and recreational fisheries, occasionally becoming entangled in fishing gear.

"While whale disentanglements from lobster fishing gear have steadily decreased from 17 in 2013 to six in 2017 due to gear modification, it is pleasing to see that the rock lobster industry is showing its commitment to protecting whales further by funding these buoys.

"The development and deployment of this technology demonstrates the State Government's commitment to working with the fishing industry to investigate new measures to minimise entanglements along the coast."