Bowhead whale seen offshore of Belgian coast potentially hampered by net
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    Bowhead whale seen offshore of Belgian coast potentially hampered by net

    The bowhead whale, glimpsed on Friday and Saturday offshore of the Belgian coast between Raversijde and Westende, may have had a few issues due to a fishing net. The net was abandoned in the sea and came to be entangled around the base of its tail. Shots of the animal analysed by the Flemish environmental association, Natuurpunt, show this.

    Such an entangled implement can occasionally make a whale’s dives somewhat difficult and therefore, correspondingly, hinder its search for food. In some instances, nets can end up in the animal’s fat layer. The specialists from Natuurpunt say that this can lead to deep and open wounds.

    During high tide, the animal ends up nearly 600 metres from the seashore, level with Middelkerke. However, it seems that the marine mammal, which has to return to the surface approximately every ten minutes to breathe has, in this case, run into a few difficulties due to this old fishing net. However, it is not absolutely certain that this is hindering the whale.

    The Flemish association says that, on the basis of photographs and video images taken, it seems to be a relatively thin specimen. The animal has a slightly damaged skin on its sides and tail.

    The issue of abandoned nets is indeed not a new one. Natuurpunt says that these are “a huge problem throughout the entire world.” This is an observation confirmed by Greenpeace. The organisation considers that each year some 640,000 tons of broken nets are found in the sea.

    Offshore from the Belgian coast, in particular cod, lobster and crabs die within these “traps”, which lie on the seabed. Associations take responsibility for wiping out such “traps.” In Belgium this is, for example, the case with Ecoduikers, which has around fifty volunteers who annually retrieve half a ton of fishing tackle from the Belgian part of the North Sea. On the flip side, the nets are then recycled into swimming costumes and socks.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times