Nat Hab Philanthropy: Whale Disentanglement in Mexico

Emily Goodheart Kautz February 6, 2020 0
RABEN rescuing a whale in Banderas Bay in Mexico

RABEN uses specialized tools to rescue an entangled whale in Banderas Bay.

As a part of our initiative to consistently raise the bar on conservation, Natural Habitat Adventures supports philanthropy efforts around the world. In 2018, we donated funds to the Mexican Big Whale Disentanglement Network (RABEN). This project frees whales from deadly fishing lines in areas where we operate whale-watching tours and is led by two of Nat Hab’s Mexico Expedition Leaders, Astrid Frisch and Karel Beets. The $2,810 grant was used to purchase specialty equipment and to sponsor a comprehensive two-day workshop. More than 25 volunteers participated in the training, which gave an overview of disentanglement procedures.

Graph depicting number of whale disentanglement cases in Mexico.

A whale tangled in a net in Mexico.

RABEN began in 2004 as a small group of individuals in Banderas Bay and has since expanded its reach to other coastal areas in the Pacific. There are now 15 teams and 180 staff and volunteers, some drawn by their background as whale-watching operators, and others coming from governmental institutions, universities and nonprofits. RABEN groups have responded to 121 entanglement reports so far.

Custom designed tools for disentangling a large whale.

New tools and knives used for cutting nets off whales.

At the training workshop in Los Cabos, the RABEN team reviewed safety procedures, practiced disentanglement maneuvers and learned how to use custom-designed blades purchased through Nat Hab funding. These tools are essential to whale survival when these large cetaceans become trapped in fishing gear and are unable to free themselves. New cutting tools were distributed to 7 teams in total: Los Cabos, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Manzanillo and San Ignacio Lagoon Loreto.

The RABEN team in Los Cabos after receiving their new equipment.

The RABEN team in Los Cabos were all smiles after receiving their new gear.

RABEN members monitor the seas, seeking out whales in need. They also collect data and educate others by hosting entanglement prevention workshops in order to spread awareness to local communities. As a part of the Global Whale Response Network, RABEN is internationally recognized for its successful rescues, having come to the aid of many gray whales, fin whales, tropical bottlenose whales and humpbacks.

A rescue boat scouts for entangled whales in the waters of Mexico.

A rescue boat scouts for whales trapped in floating debris.

Whale and rescuers in Mexico.

The preservation of the world’s great whales is an issue close to the hearts of many at Nat Hab, and we are proud to support the efforts of our friends in the field that are dedicated to the protection of these highly intelligent mammals.

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