Techno hope for Right Whales?

North Atlantic Right Whale with her calf.

North Atlantic Right Whale with her calf.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

‘Man is rapidly wiping out species. Perhaps new technology can help save at least a few of them (though not nearly as a much as stabilizing human population growth). Consider, the Associated Press reports, a new simulator that lets scientists use a joystick “to swim a virtual whale across a video screen’’ as part of efforts to save the close-to-extinction North Atlantic Right Whales that swim off New England. The idea is to better understand how the huge mammals become entangled in fishing lines and then develop such solutions as ropeless fishing gear, an experiment with which is underway with Maine lobstermen.

Tim Werner, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, told the AP: “If we can see how they get entangled, it would help us prevent it. The technology in computers has evolved to a state where we can model these things.”

More than 80 percent of Right Whales, of which there are only about 400 left, become ensnared by fishing lines. Many then die of starvation because they can’t move around to find food. Some drown. The stress of entrapment itself can kill them. It’s probably too late to save this intelligent species, but Mr. Werner holds out a little hope.