The International Whaling Commission estimates over 308,000 whales and dolphins die annually after becoming entangled in fishing nets.
According to a new study, simply making these nets weaker could save thousands of cetaceans every year.
The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, indicates the number of whales caught in fishing gear could be reduced by up to three-quarters if the industry began using nets with a lower breaking point.
Reducing the breaking strength to 1,700 pounds would allow whales to easily break free of nets, without compromising the fishing boats’ catches. According to researchers, this simple change would reduce life-threatening entanglement for large whales by 72 percent.
It’s a win-win situation for the whales and the fishing industry.
The study was conducted after looking at whales entangled in nets off the east coast of the U.S. and the Canadian Maritimes. It took note of the types of ropes found with whales both dead and alive.
The ropes used in fishing nets have become stronger over the years, typically breaking at around 2,616 pounds. Researchers found even stronger nets tangled around right whales and humpback whales.
The research team is calling for nets with reduced breaking strength to be developed and put into use as soon as possible.