What is RABEN?

Interaction with fishing gear represents one of the most significant threats to whales worldwide.

In order to address the crisis, Mexico created the Whale Disentanglement Network: RABEN (Red de Asistencia a Ballenas Enmalladas).  RABEN is an interagency team of people trained to perform rescues of whales entangled in fishing gear. RABEN network comprises 15 trained teams of disentanglement experts with 180 members along the Mexican Pacific Coast and Baja California Peninsula all equipped with specialized gear to assist in the rescue of entangled whales. Team members may vary accordingly to each region, but usually teams include personal from the Mexican Navy, Harbour Masters, API, Wildlife rangers (PROFEPA), FONMAR, whale watching tour operators, Universities and Non Profit Organizations. RABEN follows the International Whaling Comission (IWC) big whale disentanglement protocol and rescues are conduct from a boat (no rescues are done scuba diving or snorkeling).  This protocol has been tested for over 20 years and it guarantees the safety of staff and ensures minimal impact on the whales.

RABEN history starts in 2004 with the first successful team disentaglement that took place in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) and in 2006 David Mattila (NOAA) gave the first training workshop, since then RABEN Banderas Bay worked on their own capacity building, building their own tools and self training yearly, since then  the team has attended 26 entanglement reports and successfully released 10 whales.  Since 2012 Ecology and Conservation of Whales (ECOBAC a NGO) coordinates the National Network and has been receiving support from CONANP (Mexican National Park System) for training and gear in order to build a National Network.  In 2012 two big whale disentanglement workshops and one stranding workshop were done with collaboration of the IWC; David Mattila (IWC), Scott Landry (CCS), Michael Moore (Woodshole Oceanographic Institute) and Frances Guland (Marine Mammal Center) conducted the workshops.

In 2013 training conducted by ECOBAC took place and in 2014 again in collaboration with IWC three disentanglement workshops took place in three different locations, each workshop was conducted by a different instructor: David Mattila (IWC), Scott Landry (CCS) and Ed Lyman (NOAA).

So far RABEN has attended  66 entanglement reports and released successfully and following IWC protocol 25 whales (6 were Gray whales and 19 humpback whales), the other 41 reports were either not able to release the whale, to relocate it or to confirm the report.  For 2015 RABEN will work to improve documentation, communication and the database.

For 2015 ECOBAC and CONANP will continue reinforcing capacity building of RABEN.  We are working towards improving documentation and communication in order to be more efficient in future prevention of this problem.

RABEN Objectives

  • Provide efficient and safe attention to whale entanglement reports
  • Improve the answering capacity of the responding teams
  • Avoid risks and injuries caused by issue mismanagement by individuals that are well intended but lack training
  • Research data collection
  • Information dissemination
  • Prevention
  • Safety!

Safety

RABEN´s most important goal is safety.  From about 1,000 rescues following the protocol and techniques used by RABEN only 1 person has been injured, whereas in 50 rescue attempts by untrained or misinformed there has been at least 2 dead, several injured and potential accidents.

Hence only the persons with enough training can attend disentanglements.

Don´t get in the water or try to release an entangled whale it´s very dangerous!