The Whale Wrangler: Freeing Tangled Leviathans
THE GOBBLER GUILLOTINE WAS DESIGNED IN TEXAS for shooting turkeys. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Scott Landry is the only person who has successfully used the four-bladed arrow to shoot at whales on the high seas. Landry’s choice of weapon is a far cry from the traditional heavy iron harpoon, but it has proved effective for his goal: freeing the animals from yards of tangled rope and fishing gear.
Landry will tell you that he knows little about hunting turkeys. But the 42-year-old marine biologist has repurposed tools of that trade for a different kind of hunt. He is the director of a response team that extracts whales from the handcuffs of commercial fishing gear in the heavily trafficked waters along the Eastern Seaboard. Since 1998, he has helped invent techniques to free whales, predominantly right whales and humpbacks.
Fishing line kills the mammals through systemic infection from cuts—stray lines eventually slice into the skin, leaving open wounds, and can lead to a slow, brutal death. When the injuries don’t kill outright, they can impede eating and reproducing.