Gray whale caught in fixed net - Yoshihama bay, OfunatoAn earlier article at Nikkan Sports notes that the Institute of Cetacean Research confirmed that the whale was a gray whale, with a representative quoted as saying "it is rare to find gray whales in the seas off Touhoku" (for those unfamiliar with Japanese geography, Touhoku is the north eastern part of the main island of Honshu).
On the 19th, it was reported that a gray whale, a species with a high risk of extinction, became entangled in a fixed fishing net in Yoshihama bay, Sanriku, Ofunato city, and had been landed at Kamaishi city's Kamaishi Fish Market.
The whale was a female calf, of approximately 9.1 metres in length, and estimated to weigh around 7 tonnes. It had already died by the time it was discovered, and was dissected after samples were taken by the Institute of Cetacean Research (Tokyo city). The remains will be destroyed at a Kamaishi incineration plant sometime after the 20th.
According to the Fisheries Agency, fishermen discovered the gray whale entangled in a set net on the morning of the 18th, in the northern end of Yoshihama bay, in Sanriku, Ofunato city. It was pulled to Kamaishi Fish Market, where they inquired to the Fisheries Agency, at which point it was identified as a gray whale. The carcass was dissected on the morning of the 19th after researchers from the institute had completed their investigations.
According to the Fisheries Agency, there are around 100 gray whales in the coastal waters of Asia. A ministerial ordinance was revised in 2001 which, only in the case of entanglement in fixed fishing nets, made possible the sale of proceeds of whale carcasses upon submission of a written report and other procedures. However, a representative of the Fisheries Agency Far Seas Division said "The gray whale is an endangered species, and in consideration of international criticism, we have ruled that the proceeds not be sold".
There were also notifications in 2005 of a grey whale being found in Tokyo bay, and two more off the coast of Onagawa, Miyagi. These three whales also died.
An expert in whale ecology, Mr. Yamada of the No. 1 Animal laboratory at the National Science Museum, analysed the event. "It seems that the whale became entangled in the fixed fishing net while migrating to it's breeding grounds in Mexico. This species travels close to the coastline, so there is the chance of entanglement in fixed fishing nets."
According to the prefecture's fisheries promotion division, there are no prior occurrences of gray whales being entangled in Iwate prefecture. Each year, around 10 minke whales, for which it is permitted to market the proceeds only in the case of entanglement in fixed nets, are landed. In 2006 14 whales were marketed.
[Photo: The head of the gray whale landed at Kamaishi Fish Market, at 10:00 on Jan 19 (courtesy of the Fisheries Agency)]
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