A pair of incidents involving marine mammals in contact with humans enjoyed happy endings in the last week. But while the tales make for entertaining photos and stories on social media, those shared posts can induce winces from marine biologists and Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff.
In the first incident, an 11-year-old female orca was entangled in a fisherman’s net north of Port Hardy. In a drama documented by a Mackay Whale Watching crew and tour group, the whale submerged several times along with its family members, somehow shedding part of the net before the fisherman was able to reel in the killer whale and finish cutting the net away.
Then, on Monday morning, a young Pacific white-sided dolphin, reportedly trying to escape one or more transient whales near Port Hardy, ran aground at Storey’s Beach before residents were able to push it back out to sea.
Yes, two happy endings (though the ultimate fate of the dolphin remains in question after it tried to return to the beach later Monday evening), but also cause to remind the public to exercise restraint in dealing with marine wildlife.
Noted whale researcher Jackie Hildering of the Marine Education and Research Society said incidents like the ones noted above require the response of DFO and professional biologists equipped to deal with detangling nets and other emergencies.
Yes, sometimes the average citizen can play a role in a favourable outcome, but before attempting to do so he or she is urged to call the Marine Mammal Incident Reporting Hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
Particularly critical is not to view this week’s interactions — including well-meaning residents’ hands-on treatment of the beached dolphin — as standard behaviour toward any wild animal, marine or otherwise.
We understand that, in times of emergency, things happen fast and reaction can overtake reflective deliberation. But it pays to arm yourself with knowledge when out on our waters or in our forests.
Numbers like the MMIR hotline above can be as valuable a tool as the best of intentions in helping to preserve and protect our wildlife.