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ENTANGLED chronicles the efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction, the impacts of those efforts on the lobster industry, and how the National Marine Fisheries Service has struggled to balance the vying interests.

There are now estimated to be about 350 right whales, making them among the planet's most endangered species. The main threat to their survival, scientists say: millions of lobster lines that stretch from New England up through Atlantic Canada, standard gear for North America's most valuable fishery. Exacerbating that threat is climate change, which has sparked a collapse in the whale's food supply in the warming waters of the Gulf of Maine, forcing them to search for food in areas where they had rarely been seen before. As a result, their population has been plummeting.

In recent years, deaths of right whales have spiked while births have fallen sharply. In 2018, no calves were born — an unprecedented observation — while the previous year, a record 17 were found dead. In 2019, 10 right whales died, the second most ever recorded. NOAA officials say the population can't sustain more than a single premature death a year. At the current rate of decline, scientists say the whales could go extinct within 20 years.

Now, under pressure from lawsuits by environmental advocates to reduce right whale deaths, the federal government has been considering controversial regulations that pit the region's politically powerful lobstermen against scientists and environmental advocates trying to save the whales. The proposed regulations, which could reduce lobster lines by half in much of the Gulf of Maine and harm the livelihoods of many lobstermen, has sparked a political backlash. The future of the iconic species hangs in the balance.

'A brilliant and truly outstanding film, profoundly disturbing, laying out the evidence on the role that humanity continues to play in their demise, and shining a light on how we hold the fate of these incredible creatures in our hands.' Peter J. Auster, Research Professor Emeritus of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut

'A brilliant film that brings the difficult conversations to the forefront, while encouraging a solutions-based approach by all sides that is urgently needed to help save our marine life, our oceans, and ultimately ourselves...[The film] presents the current plight of the North Atlantic Right Whale with a balanced perspective showcasing the complex and disturbing effects of climate change and human interaction on an already endangered species.' Ana Blanco, Executive Director, International Ocean Film Festival

'Beyond phenomenal...A tremendously excellent job with this film. It's powerful, thought-provoking, and sure to make a difference.' Kim Kirchberg-Sawicki, University of Connecticut

'Director David Abel analyzes the dilemma with clarity, evenhandedness, and empathy. But hopes of a resolution have been complicated by politics.' Peter Keough, The Boston Globe

'The plight of the North Atlantic right whale is dire, and Entangled tells so well the story of the complexities and frustrations conservationists and fishermen face to resolve the situation - finding common ground to preserve industry and the whales through new gear innovations and stronger policies is imperative! Thank you for bringing attention to the heart wrenching impact human activities that continue to plague the NARW and talking about the hard work of many to find a way to work together to save these beautiful animals. Bravo!' Christina Connett Brophy, Chief Curator, The New Bedford Whaling Museum

'Powerful...conservation-focused...Told with respect for culture, livelihood and wildlife, Entangled shines a bright light on North Atlantic right whales, urgently exposing the long legacy of human pressures, the contemporary and impactful dynamics of a changing ocean environment, and the complication of government oversight across two nations, and does so with reverence for a species whose magnificent presence may well fade to dark over the next generation.' Dr. Jeff Boehm, Chief Executive Officer, The Marine Mammal Center

'Outstanding film...Entangledbrings us into the world of these ocean giants and into the lives of people intertwined with them. Beautifully filmed, with a journalistic style, this film leads us on a journey through the threats, conflicts, and solutions, while leaving us pondering the fate of a species whose existence hangs in the balance. An important story artfully told, through science and human emotion.' Brian Skerry, award-winning underwater photographer and National Geographic Photography Fellow

'Entangled expertly presents both sides of a contentious issue with equal understanding. [The film] doesn't just fit the problem of right whale entanglement into one box - [it] carefully explains the nuanced effects of climate change and fishing regulation until the viewer can make their own educated judgement. In a world full of knee-jerk outrage, this approach is a breath of ocean air.' Julia Dunlavey, Maine Film Center

'Entangled skillfully navigates the complex conflicts surrounding right whales, balancing a wide range of perspectives, a careful representation of the oceanography, and a sense of urgency. This is a story, still unfolding, that everyone should be aware of.' Nicholas Record, Senior Research Scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences


Main credits

Abel, David (film director)
Abel, David (film producer)
Abel, David (screenwriter)
Abel, David (photographer)
Abel, David (narrator)
Laub, Andy (film producer)
Laub, Andy (screenwriter)
Laub, Andy (editor of moving image work)
King, Lise (film producer)

Other credits

Edited by Andy Laub; cinematography by David Abel.


whales,right whale,atlantic ocean,new england,lobster fishing,fishing industry,lobster industry,fisheries,NOAA,regulation,government regulations,National Marine Fisheries Service,lobster lines,food chain,good web,marine biology,marine science,mammals,Gulf of Maine,extinction,endangered species,integrated geography,; "Entangled"; Bullfrog Films,doc,env; science

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