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VIRGINIA BEACH--Fishermen were warned Friday of the potential harm their fishing gear poses to whales currently off the coast.

Whale experts at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center reminded fishermen to remove their gear from the water after use following the spotting of a whale onThursday that had fishing gear stuck to its side.

The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team received a report from the Rudee Flipper vessel during a wildlife boat trip of a humpback whale that had been entangled in recreational fishing gear.

The whale had been sighted several times in the area without thegear. The most recent sighting wasJanuary 21st.

The gear spotted Thursdayhas been identified as a striped bass lure called a 'mojo' parachute lure which has a heavy lead head surrounded by a 'skirt' of fringe. At least one hook appears to be embedded in the whale's skin.

Experts are concerned that the line attached to the lure might wrap around an animal's flippers or jaw and cause lacerations, loss of circulation and infection.

NOAA Fisheries whale watching guidelines state that no intentional approaches should be made within 500 yards (1500 feet) of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, and within 100 yards (300 feet) of other whale species. For more information, visit http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/mmv/approach.html.

The aquarium also had some advise forboaters who encounter an entangled whale....maintain a safe distance while attempting to keep the animal in sight and call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team immediately at 757-385-7575.

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