Whales are beautiful and magnificent creatures and are the largest and oldest mammals on Earth. This week, NOAA Fisheries and partners are celebrating Whale Week 2017.
Whales are found in every ocean of the world. Twenty-nine species of whales live in U.S. waters. All of these species are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Endangered and threatened marine mammals are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Whales are becoming entangled in fishing gear and marine debris at an increasing rate and scientists are unsure why. Studies of whale body scars show that 83 percent of all right whales and 70 percent of whales overall in the U.S. have been entangled in fishing gear or other marine debris at some point in their lives. Because it often wraps around these creatures -- and unlike us, marine creatures lack opposable thumbs to free themselves -- this debris can hurt or even kill whales, turtles, and other animals through starvation, strangulation and drowning. NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and our partners work hard to disentangle these creatures and set them free.
On Friday, February 17, please join NOAA scientists on Reddit for a Q&A discussion about whale disentanglement and what NOAA and their partners are doing to reduce risks and rescue whales in distress.