SciTechBlog   « Back to Blog Main
March 12, 2009

Whale sedated at sea - a scientific first

Posted: 11:33 AM ET

Two drops of whale tranquilizer is enough to kill a person.

But last week, scientists used rifle-like guns and foot-long needles to shoot two cups’ worth of the stuff into an endangered whale off the coast of Georgia.

Scientists on Friday use poles and knives to try to untangle a whale off the coast of Georgia from fishing line.

And, for the first time, it worked.

Never before Friday had a wild whale been successfully tranquilized and freed from an entanglement that threatened its life, researchers told CNN. (See video of the dangerous encounter.) The whale - a rare, school-bus-sized whale named Bridle - was freed from hundreds of feet of fishing line that threatened the whale's life, scientists said.

That’s big news in the whale world, said Jamison Smith, large whale disentanglement coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It means that researchers have a new tool to help whales in dangerous circumstances.

Previously, when scientists tried to sedate whales, nothing noticeable happened.

The scientists cautiously upped the dosage until they were successful. The fear of using too much tranquilizer on a whale is great, because it could cause a whale to stop swimming and drown, he said.

Bridle is a North Atlantic right whale, which is one of the most endangered large whales on earth. Only about 400 of the school-bus-sized creatures remain, and scientists are worried by the fact that they’ve seen more of the rare whales entangled in fishing lines and gear this year than ever before.

Some of the right whales are giving birth through the end of the month off the Atlantic coasts of Georgia and Florida. Record numbers of whales are being born - which is a great thing, since scientists say each one gives the species a slightly better chance for survival.

But five whales have been found entangled in fishing line in the last six weeks, Smith said. He called that news "alarming," and said it's unclear what's causing the increase.

The lines wrap around their bodies and cause cuts and infections that often prove fatal.

Bridle, the whale that was sedated, was named because it had a rope strung through its mouth, like a bridled horse, said Katie Jackson, a marine mammal biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (Read more about how Jackson and others free the whales.)

Friday was the fifth time scientists had tried to free Bridle. In other attempts, he didn’t respond to sedation and dove deep into the ocean and turned sharply to avoid tiny boats filled with rescuers, Jackson said.

Smith said the whale’s injuries are extensive. So, despite the fact that the whale was freed from hundreds of feet of rope, his chances for survival are still uncertain.

Jackson said Bridle’s recovery partly will depend on the whale’s will to survive.

“He’s a little bit emaciated and has been having to deal with this entanglement for months now - at least. So he’s not doing well overall,” she said. “He still may not be able to survive this ordeal. It’s just going to depend on him really - and his ability to bounce back from it.”

To learn more, check out these right-whale resources online:

- Watch video of scientists trying to disentangle Bridle

- See a CNN report on efforts to save these 'ugly' whales, which are slow swimmers and have funny warts on their heads

- Listen to a scientist tell the stories of individual right whales - from Stumpy to Van Halen

- And flip through a catalog of right whale sightings to learn more about their stories.

Posted by:
Filed under: Animals • environment • Oceans • Scientists • whales

Share this on:
Franko   March 12th, 2009 3:11 pm ET

Do Blue Whales, Sperm Whales, get tangled to extinction ?
Are the Right Whales in the South smarter, better adapted, domesticated ?

S Callahan   March 13th, 2009 9:07 am ET

Great job...long live Bridle!! (he should be called 'Flyin High")...a good meal, some rest and he'll be back full force. The whales are the most beautiful of the ocean, and very special to God's heart.
Thank you to those who labored to save him....

Franko   March 13th, 2009 1:14 pm ET

The Land Cow, led to slaughter, is possible, because there is value
The Right Cow needs to be moniteralized, commercialized
Tourist attraction for now, - then, to cull the herd, sushi

Personal training Long Island   January 11th, 2014 11:19 pm ET

Researchers have a new tool to help whales in dangerous circumstances this is a great thing. This will help the researchers and the whales.

Whale sedated and rescued from a life-threatening entanglement….a scientific first! | Quoddy Link Marine   June 8th, 2015 10:02 pm ET

[...] got the right amount to calm and slow the whale down so they could approach and cut the ropes. The full story can be read on CNN and there is video and more photos as [...]

Tobie Bennerson   July 18th, 2017 12:26 pm ET

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this web site. I am hoping the same high-grade website post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a great example of it.

atomic blonde cda   July 21st, 2017 6:35 am ET

...Click here for or more Information

[...]I am now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic.[...]

Ione Rodrigo   August 7th, 2017 2:06 am ET

What i don't understood is actually how you are not actually much more well-liked than you might be now. You're very intelligent. You realize thus considerably relating to this subject, produced me personally consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like women and men aren't fascinated unless it is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. Always maintain it up!

come to site   August 23rd, 2017 3:07 pm ET

traiteur rabat maroc   August 30th, 2017 9:08 am ET

Traiteur Rabat Regal; Traiteur de ronome au Maroc

Traiteur Rabat Regal au Maroc

Techbeasts   September 29th, 2017 8:51 am ET

Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thanks However I am experiencing difficulty with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting an identical rss downside? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

RNI - المهندسون المغاربة   April 23rd, 2018 5:13 am ET

Corps des Ingénieurs du RNI au Maroc – هيئة المهندسين التجمعيين


Maite   February 3rd, 2019 6:07 pm ET

Hola buenas me encantaría dejo un mensaje felicitar este post

Edyth Schrecengost   January 3rd, 2020 8:26 pm ET

I liked your post! I visit your blog all the time and have shared with my facebook fans and they really like the posts. Keep up the awesome posts. I will share it on Breaking news Site

Leave Your Comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP