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Study connects marine heat wave with spike in whale entanglements

Source: news.ucsc.edu

Entanglements of humpback whales in fishing gear along the U.S. West Coast increased dramatically during the 2014 to 2016 marine heat wave known as the ‘warm blob’

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of marine heat waves—warm water anomalies that disrupt marine ecosystems—and this is creating new challenges for fisheries management and ocean conservation. A new study shows how the record-breaking marine heat wave of 2014 to 2016 caused changes along the U.S. West Coast that led to an unprecedented spike in the numbers of whales that became entangled in fishing gear.

“With the ocean warming, we saw a shift in the ecosystem and in the feeding behaviour of humpback whales that led to a greater overlap between whales and crab fishing gear,” said Jarrod Santora, a researcher in applied mathematics at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering and first author of the study, published January 27 in Nature Communications. MORE

Header image: A rope from fishing gear can be seen as this entangled humpback whale breaches. Credit: NOAA-NMFS West Coast Region.

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