[MARMAM] Right Whale Sedation Paper in PLoS One

mmoore at whoi.edu mmoore at whoi.edu
Mon Mar 15 15:35:11 PDT 2010

A paper has been published in PLoS One titled:

Sedation at Sea of Entangled North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis)
to Enhance Disentanglement

Authored by:
Michael Moore, Michael Walsh, James Bailey, David Brunson, Frances Gulland,
Scott Landry, David Mattila, Charles Mayo, Christopher Slay, Jamison Smith,
Teresa Rowles

It can be downloaded open access at

So no need to email for a reprint...

For those of you unfamiliar with the PLoS journal series, readers are welcome to
comment on the paper - a more egalitarian peer review perhaps.

Here is the abstract:


The objective of this study was to enhance removal of fishing gear from right
whales (Eubalaena glacialis) at sea that evade disentanglement boat approaches.
Titrated intra muscular injections to achieve sedation were undertaken on two
free swimming right whales.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Following initial trials with beached whales, a sedation protocol was developed
for right whales. Mass was estimated from sighting and necropsy data from
comparable right whales. Midazolam (0.01 to 0.025 mg/kg) was first given alone
or with meperidine (0.17 to 0.25 mg/kg) either once or four times over two
hours to whale #1102 by cantilevered pole syringe. In the last attempt on whale
#1102 there appeared to be a mild effect in 20–30 minutes, with duration of less
than 2 hours that included exhalation before the blowhole fully cleared the
water. Boat avoidance, used as a measure of sedation depth, was not reduced. A
second severely entangled animal in 2009, whale #3311, received midazolam (0.03
mg/kg) followed by butorphanol (0.03 mg/kg) an hour later, delivered
ballistically. Two months later it was then given midazolam (0.07 mg/kg) and
butorphanol (0.07 mg/kg) simultaneously. The next day both drugs at 0.1 mg/kg
were given as a mixture in two darts 10 minutes apart. The first attempt on
whale #3311 showed increased swimming speed and boat avoidance was observed
after a further 20 minutes. The second attempt on whale #3311 showed
respiration increasing mildly in frequency and decreasing in strength. The
third attempt on whale #3311 gave a statistically significant increase in
respiratory frequency an hour after injection, with increased swimming speed
and marked reduction of boat evasion that enabled decisive cuts to entangling


We conclude that butorphanol and midazolam delivered ballistically in
appropriate dosages and combinations may have merit in future refractory free
swimming entangled right whale cases until other entanglement solutions are

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