Fishing gears involved in entanglements of minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the East Sea of Korea



Entanglement of marine mammals in fishing gear is a global issue. It is considered a significant threat to minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the East Sea of Korea. A total of 214 entanglements of minke whales in this area between 2004 and 2007 were used to investigate types and parts of fishing gears involved in entanglements. The majority of entanglements were mainly caused by three types of fishing gears: set nets, pots, and gill nets (n= 207, 96.7%). Other entanglements were associated with bottom trawls, purse seines, and trawls. A total of 65 entanglements were attributed to the main and branch lines of fishing gears. The most common body part of minke whales which attached to fishing gears was the mouth (n= 63, 30.4%). Most entanglements took place within 10 nmi from land (n= 179, 86.5%), and between 10 and 220 m of water depth. The mean length of entangled minke whales in set nets was significantly smaller than that of whales in pots and gill nets samples (P < 0.001). Also, the mean body length of minke whales that entangled in the coastal area and shallow waters was significantly shorter than that of whales in the offshore area and deep waters (P < 0.001). This information can be used as fundamental data to conserve and manage this population of minke whales in the East Sea of Korea, and also to modify fishing gear to reduce entanglements. Future studies should focus on investigating the impact of these entanglements on the population and the effectiveness of mitigation measures to reduce entanglements of minke whales in this area.