When right whales become tangled in commercial fishing gear, the results can be fatal. Fishing gear entanglement is the second highest cause of right whale mortality today, and more than 70% of the right whale population bear scars from past fishing gear entanglements.

We use GIS technology to plot when and where commercial fishing activities could impact right whales. By collaborating with the Northeast Regional Office of the National Marine Fisheries Service, we obtained and analyzed fishing vessel trip reports in the Gulf of Maine. These reports include the location of fishing effort, gear type used and species targeted.

By comparing this information with known right whale distribution patterns, we can predict when and where commercial fishing efforts may negatively impact right whales.