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Fisherman fined for trying to disentangle gear from whale

A humpback whale breaches.

A Massachusetts fisherman has been fined for freeing a whale that had become entangled in his fishing gear.

In a plea deal, Chatham resident Robert Eldridge was fined $500 after pleading guilty in Federal court to violating the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He had faced up to $100,000 in fines and a year in prison. 

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston, Eldridge was operating a commercial fishing boat last year and had set gill nets in an area where humpback whales were present, and one promptly got entangled.

Upon learning of the trapped cetacean, Eldridge attempted to free it himself rather than calling the toll-free Marine Animal Disentanglement Hotline -- the number for which he had posted on his boat -- to bring in licensed marine mammal rescue workers.

Unable to disentangle the whale, he eventually cut the gear from the boat, leaving about 30-feet of line on the marine mammal.

In addition to the fine, Eldridge also provided a written statement that can be distributed to other anglers, which acknowledged his actions and in part read:

"I am making this statement in order to alert all persons who fish or enjoy being in the waters off Massachusetts that we must be, at all times vigilant in protecting of the marine mammal species with whom we share the waters."

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: A humpback whale breaches in this file photo. Credit: Associated Press

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Comments (2)

Our oceans and water ways are FULL of protected and endangered mammals,fish and birds so if he sets nets it's going to be close to something.I really like the part about getting a new job skill,thats great!! So you think if commercial fishermen see a endangered speices they should just give up a life time of work and investment feeding the nation and go compete for a job in this job market when unemployment is 10 percent?

While I love to fish, if I were a commercial fisherman and knew whales were in the area I wouldnt set my nets in that area. Whales have no where else to go yet humans can move somewhere else or learn a new job skill. When I fly fish, if I see ducks, otters etc near where I am wanting to fly fish I leave and go somewhere else.


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.