DFO and Straitwatch team preparing for the disentanglement on Saturday, July 25. (Photo courtesy, Cetus Research and Conservation Society)

Crews work to free three humpback whales entangled near Vancouver Island

DFO crew starts disentangling process for two, before one slips away, looking for a third

Rescue teams have been working to free a pair of entangled humpback whales off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, well keeping their eyes open following reports of a third.

Three cases of entangled humpbacks have been reported within the past four days, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has confirmed Tuesday.

The Marine Education and Research Society (MERS) identified two of the whales that were reported to the DFO as Checkmate and X-Ray.

RELATED: Entangled humpback whale found dead on remote Vancouver Island beach

A spokesperson for DFO, Lara Sloan, said in an e-mail, that they also received a report of a third humpback in the Central Coast area entangled in a seine net and mobile with a 100 feet of netting. This whale is yet to be relocated.

On Saturday, July 25, DFO was alerted about Checkmate, entangled in Sutil Channel near Quadra Island and a team was dispatched to rescue the whale. The team consists of members from DFO Marine Mammal Rescue, Conservation & Protection (C&P) Campbell River and Straitwatch.

The whale had a crab trap trailing close to it and a rope entangled through its pectoral fin. Since the surface was submerged underwater, the crew was unable to completely disentangle the whale. Given how “tight the rope was to the body of the whale,” the crew were not able to attach a satellite tag to track the whale before it slipped away.

While searching for Checkmate on July 26, DFO received another entanglement report of a humpback calf, X-Ray, that was travelling with its mother. The crew were able to remove 200 feet of rope from the calf.

As the weather deteriorated they attached a satellite tag to the remaining trailing gear to track the whale and continue disentangling it, said Sloan.

The crew worked to disentangle the whale for 10 hours from Salmon Point south of Campbell River to Kelsey Bay where it was last seen. The operation is still underway and the crew is out on the water with Port Hardy C&P (lead vessel) and MERS (support vessel).

In an update, Mark Dombowsky, executive director of Cetus Research and Conservation Society that runs the Straitwatch program, said that the crew have tracked X-Ray and are in the process of completing the disentangling today.

Checkmate still needs to be relocated to remove the remaining entangled gear.

Entanglements pose a serious danger to Humpbacks with over 50 percent of them physically scarred by it. Some instances have also been fatal for the whales. In April, the carcass of an entangled juvenile humpback whale washed ashore on a beach north of Kyuquot on Vancouver Island.

Citizen whale watchers who are able to spot Checkmate based on its markings, can report it to DFO at 1-800-465-4336. Entanglement cases and any marine mammal in distress can also be reported on the number.

Citizens are also advised not to attempt to remove any fishing gear or rope from the whale as it risks both human and whale safety. Professional training and equipment are needed to assess the entanglement.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Spectacular humpback breach caught off B.C. island

RELATED: Humpback whales put on a rare show near Campbell River

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Build a new pool or fix the old? Port Hardy mayor wades in

‘… whatever we do going forward we want the support of the community’

Fear and ignorance have spiked racism in the province: B.C’s human rights commissioner

Kasari Govender has been virtually interacting with citizens in remote, rural areas to address concerns of discrimination

COVID-19 tests come back negative in remote First Nation community

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

Most Read