Officials on the West Coast of Vancouver Island want the public to help them locate an entangled mother humpback whale before it vanishes west into the Pacific.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Ucluelet RCMP are asking Barkley Sound area boaters to keep an eye out for an entangled female nicknamed “Pinky.” Pinky is entangled by about 50-feet of rope and a visible orange and white crab pot float and is travelling with a young calf.
Sydney Dixon, Zodiac operator for Jamie’s Whaling Station and Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society’s (SIMRS) research co-ordinator, first spotted the entangled humpback on Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m. in Imperial Eagle Channel just off of Gibraltar Island.
“I stayed with her and tracked her into Coaster Channel and then I left her with Fisheries officers at about 5 p.m. and then they lost sight of her by Cooper Island,” said Dixon. “She hasn’t been spotted since the Fisheries officers had eyes on her at 5:30 p.m. (on Oct. 7) when they said they lost track and started to lose daylight.”
DFO, SIMRS, Jamie’s Whaling, and local mariners Brian Congdon and Lynette Dawson combined in a team mission to relocate her the next day, Oct. 8, was unsuccessful.
“This one does migrate to Hawaii. The migration event is going to happen pretty quick, so time is of the essence to try and locate her,” said Dixon.
“We think it’s the mom that’s entangled. She’s one of the whales that we see here every single summer. The calf that she has with her is her 2021 baby.”
Dixon went on to note that whales can sometimes disentangle themselves.
“About 50 per cent of the humpbacks in British Columbia do have entanglement scarring on their bodies. They absolutely are able to free themselves sometimes,” she said.
Anyone that spots “Pinky” or any entangled marine mammal should call the 24-hour marine mammal incident hotline immediately:
“Document and relay your location if possible and stay with the whale if you are able to,” said Dixon.